I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
It is clear from what Brother Paul wrote in this letter to Brother Timothy that we are to make supplications, pray, make intercessions, and give thanks for all who are in authority over us. The specific goal of these is that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
We often use the terms supplication, prayer and intercession synonymously (interchangeably). But, it is clear from the text that these are separate and distinct. I want to explore the Greek text as it relates to these terms. I will go through each of them individually.
Supplications – this word is used three times in the New Testament. It is used four times in the singular (supplication). The plural form is used in 1 Timothy 2:1, 5:5, and Hebrews 5:7. The singular form is used in Acts 1:14, Ephesians 6:18 (twice), and Philippians 4:6. Except for Hebrews 5:7, the same Greek root word is used. That word is deesis (deh’-ay-sis). It comes from deomai (deh’-om-ahee) and means a petition. In the King James, the word is translated prayer, request, supplication. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, supplication means the act of asking humbly. Thus, we are to ask God humbly for those in authority over us in order that we may live quiet peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty. In Hebrews 5:7, the Greek root used is hiketeria (hik-et-ay-ree’-ah), and means intreaty, an archaic form of the word entreaty, meaning to request earnestly or emotionally, i.e., plead.
Prayers – this word is used 22 times in the New Testament. I won’t list them here but, rather, refer you to a good concordance such as Strong’s or Cruden’s. The Greek root in all of these passages (except for Luke 2:37, 5:33, 2 Timothy 1:3, Hebrews 5:7, and 1 Peter 3:12, where deesis is used), is proseuche (pros-yoo-khay’). It comes from proseuchomai (pros-yoo’-khom-ahee), and means prayer, which, in English, primarily means a solemn request or thanksgiving to God or to an object of worship. Thus, we are to make a solemn request to God for those in authority over us in order that we may live quiet, peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.
Intercessions – this plural form of intercession is used only once in the New Testament: in our text. The Greek root here is the one that is used for all of the five New Testament entries for the singular form (intercession), except for Romans 8:26. The Greek root is entugchano (en-toong-khan’-o). It means to chance upon. In the King James it is translated “to deal with” and “make intercession.” In Romans 8:26, huperentugchano (hoop-er-en-toong-khan’-o, to intercede in behalf of) is used. Thus, we are to ask the Lord to deal with those in authority on our behalf in order that we may live quiet, peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.
Giving of thanks – the Greek root used for thanks here is the one that is used elsewhere in the New Testament for thanksgiving. That root is eucharistia (yoo-khar-is-tee’-ah), which comes from eucharistos (yoo-khar’-is-tos), meaning well-favored. It means gratitude or grateful language. Thus, we are to be grateful, to express to God in grateful language, for those in authority over us in order that we may live quiet, peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.
Brother Paul exhorts (from the Greek root parakaleo [par-ak-al-eh’-o], meaning to call near, i.e., invite, invoke) Brother Timothy and, by extension, all saints, to ask humbly, solemnly request, and ask the Lord to deal on our behalf, as well as to be grateful and express to God in grateful language. The subject of this, the ones for whom we’re to do these, is those in authority over us, whether kings and other heads of state or anyone else in any position of authority over us (including those in the five-fold ministry listed in Ephesians 4:11). Brother Paul doesn’t say to pray for those in authority so that certain types of legislation will be passed or that certain people will be placed in authority (or removed from authority) but, rather, that we may live quiet, peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty. In other words, we’re to ask the Lord to intervene on our behalf for the express purpose of having those in authority not create circumstances that would cause us not to live quiet, peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.
Now, notice the phrase Brother Paul uses here: “that we may lead a quiet, peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” The Greek here is rendered as “in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all piety and gravity.” The word gravity, used here, means seriousness or solemnity. This is, of course, in keeping with the characteristics of a Christian’s life called for in the word of God. In that Brother Paul tells us to pray for this and to give thanks for this, he implies that this kind of “lifestyle” is required of us as saints of God (see also Ephesians 4:21-32, 5:1-4, 15-16; Philippians 1:27, 4:5-7; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Titus 2:11-13; Hebrews 12:14). It’s so easy for us to adapt ourselves to the values and priorities of the secular cultures from which we have come; to engage in those behaviors and take on those characteristics that these cultures hold in esteem — such as the individuality and competitiveness of American culture. But let us remember that, as the hymn says, “this world is not [our] home;” that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, seeking the heavenly country (see Hebrews 11:13-16).
Inasmuch as part of the role of the New Testament prophet is to exhort, and inasmuch as I function in that particular ministry, I repeat Brother Paul’s exhortation to pray and give thanks for all those in authority over us that we might live a lifestyle characterized by tranquility, quietness, piety, and gravity.
Questions to Consider:
1. How does our text relate to the issue of exercising the right Americans have to engage in the political process?
2. What does our text tell us about the attitude we should have toward those in authority over us?
Author, educator, theologian and scholar Rev. Chancellor Carlyle Roberts II was ordained a minister of the National Gay Pentecostal Alliance and has served as a pastor, Bible teacher and Sunday school teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies (religion and special education) and a graduate certificate in global studies and is the author of God in Three What? An Examination of the Use of Persons in the Trinity Doctrine, We Believe: A Commentary on the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 A.D. and Homesick.