Prayer in Assembly Conduct, 1 Timothy 2
Stephen Whitmore, Clacton-on-Sea
If the opening chapter of 1 Timothy reminds us of the expression of the heart of God in providing salvation, then the next two chapters give some solemn reminders of the desire of God for the conduct of His assembly. Two features are noted for particular mention at this stage:
1. The Prayers of the Brethren, vv. 1-8
2. The Submission of the Sisters, vv. 9-15
If we were asked to mark out the distinctive features of the local assembly, we might think of many. Those in this article are selected because of their direct relevance to the subject of godliness. The prayers of the brethren should reflect the heart of God towards a lost world. The submission of the sisters should reflect the submission of ail believers to the word of God.
1. The Prayers of the Brethren
As this subject is opened, we find some important principles are laid down as to:
the types of prayer, v. 1
the scope of prayer, v. 1
the subjects of prayer, v. 1-2
the basis of prayer, vv. 3-7
the exponents of prayer, v. 8.
The chapter opens with mention of four types of prayer that should characterize our prayer meetings. Each has a different emphasis. We can only engage in such activity as our hearts are in tune with the mind of God.
Supplication has the idea of making a request. It emphasizes the humility of approach as we come to God in prayer.
Prayer is a more general word, and has stress on the intensity of desire with which the request is made.
Intercession is a stronger word again, and it shows earnest longing as we stand like Aaron in Numbers 16. 48, 'between the dead and the living'.
Giving of thanks would remind us of the anticipation with which we come, having the assurance that our prayers will be heard and answered.
The scope of prayer is all-embracing. No one is outside its reach, any more than they could be outside the scope of God's salvation. In this respect, our hearts should be found to be in tune with our Lord. All prayer arises from the heart, and we cannot pray until our hearts have been touched by the love of God for the world of men. Particular emphasis is given to prayer for those in authority in order that we might live our lives for the glory of God in a way well pleasing to Him. We might ask how far the conditions that surround us in the world today arise from a failure to perform this simple yet essential duty. Nothing can be accomplished for God without prayer. It is surely first in the requirements of a godly life, because it is the foundation of a life lived for the pleasure of God.
The basis of prayer is very simple. We can come in complete confidence that we are making request of God for that which He desires. It is His desire that all men might be saved and come into the full knowledge of the truth. Let us never forget that, while salvation is clearly important, it is the knowledge of the truth that will lay the foundation for the next generation. If we saw many saved but not going on in the word, it would be an uncertain prospect, because there would be no continuance of the testimony. Let us never neglect both gospel preaching and teaching of the word. They are complementary. It is often the case that a lack of teaching leads to ineffective gospel witness.
The second basis for prayer is the evidence that is given at the cross. If it is the desire of God that all might be saved,, then He has provided the basis on which all can be saved. He never asks for more than He provides the means to accomplish. The work of Christ is adequate to satisfy every demand for a ransom for all who ever live in the world. We need to distinguish between the truth of propitiation - a 'ransom for all' as here, and the truth of substitution - a 'ransom for many' as in Mark 10. 45. Here it is the sufficiency of the work, but in Mark 10 it is the scope of its enjoyment. No one need be lost, but only the 'many' who believe will be saved.
The third basis for prayer is the fact that the Lord has raised up preachers and teachers to ensure that the work is continued. While the cross provides a basis for salvation, it might be argued that the word must be spread. Paul is an example of those who are raised up to accomplish this.
The section ends with the solemn reminder of those who should pray, and the way in which they should pray. It is important to note the distinction between the words for 'men'. All mankind is the subject of prayer, but only male persons are to pray audibly. This is because Divine order must be maintained. It should also be emphasized that all male persons are expected to pray. In the context of this chapter, a failure of the men to pray, where physically possible, is as much a failing as women taking part audibly. Both are equal evidence of a lack of understanding godliness. Further to this, the character of the men must be consistent with their exercise. While it is not explained in detail here, the principle of self-examination encouraged in 1 Corinthians 11 before partaking of the Lord's supper, is equally necessary before public prayer. The same principle, however, should apply in both cases. Self-examination should ensure a right condition to take part; it is not an excuse for failing to take part. Failure to take part in prayer is denying the desire of God expressed in these verses.
2. The Submission of the Sisters
The purpose of these verses in this context is wider than just the simple outlining of the position of sisters within the assembly. If the prayers of the brethren are a public expression of the heart of God reaching out to men, then the submission of the sisters is equally a public expression of the readiness of every godly believer to submit to the will and word of God.
Three principles are seen in these verses:
the character of submission, vv. 9, 10
the quietness of submission, vv. 11, 12
the order in submission, vv. 13-15.
As to the character of submission, the believer generally should be marked by what is asked of the sisters here. The negative aspects listed can be summarized simply as putting away everything that draws attention to the individual. The godly will always live in such a way that they are hidden from view, and Christ is seen in their lives. While this is clearly seen in a practical sense as the sisters gather in the way outlined here, let us not limit the teaching. We are quick to point out that the sisters can join in prayer silently, but we ought to be as ready to recognize that while the brethren cannot legitimately 'take a back seat', they ought still to take part in the same spirit of humility. The positive aspect of character, namely 'good works', is the means that our Lord Himself taught was the basis on which men would glorify our Father, Matt. 5. 16. The mention is not intended to limit them to the sisters so much, as to emphasize the fact that the prayers and labours of the brethren also are of no value unless there is the character of good works marking all believers.
The idea of silence here is that of a quiet spirit that continues in its own duties without interfering in the domain of others. Once more, we can easily see the significance of using this as an example of godliness. We only have to listen to the clamour of the world today to realize just how unnatural it is to submit in this way. The sisters have the opportunity to show the meek and quiet spirit of Christ by their deportment in the gatherings of the saints. This principle again has a wider significance since there are many instances when we all have to bow to others for the benefit of the whole company. In whatever circumstance we find ourselves, let us always be marked by a quiet yielding to others for the glory of God, even as 'Christ pleased not himself, Rom. 15. 3. The thought is not so much of the act of silence as of the spirit that bows without murmuring. It goes much further than the silence enjoined in 1 Corinthians 14. 34.
The closing verses show that divine order is expressed in this simple act. The woman was deceived, and transgressed. She was in the wrong place, either directly in that she had left her husband's side, or indirectly in that he had left her. The emphasis of this passage, is that as the result of this the Lord has ordered that to the woman is given the responsibility of child-bearing with all that it involves. Godliness of life and submissiveness of spirit thus can demonstrate the character of the help meet for the man that was purposed in Genesis 2.