Praying for All Men

Last week, we considered the 1928 Book of Common Prayer as a tool to help us grow in our prayer lives. This week, we will comment briefly on one of the prayers used in the service of Morning Prayer. 1 Timothy 2:1 enjoins us to pray for all men, and the following prayer seeks to enable us to do just that:

A Prayer for all Conditions of Men:

O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are any ways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [* especially those for whom our prayers are desired;] that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them, according to their several necessities; giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind: Why do we appeal to God on behalf of all men, even those who couldn’t care less about Him? Because He made them, and His breath keeps them alive.

we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations: What do we ask God to do for them before anything else? We don’t ask God to preserve their lives, to make them happy or successful, or that He would relieve their poverty, sickness, etc. Before we ask God for any of these blessings, we ask that He would give them the greatest gift of all: knowledge of Himself, through what He has done, especially His saving health, that is, God’s work of salvation. Only in the context of God’s salvation do any and all other blessings we might ask from God find their proper place.

More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life: We pray not merely for our own congregation, association, or denomination, but for God’s church, which is universal, although it finds expression locally. We pray in Trinitarian terms by asking God to effectually govern His church by His good Spirit. We often pit unity and truth against each other, but this prayer models the right kind of ecumenicism: we pray for the universal church to know the truth through the Spirit. Another common false dichotomy is attacked by this prayer: we pray that we would hold the truths of the faith in “righteousness of life”. Christian knowledge and Christian experience shouldn’t compete for primacy of place; they should reinforce each other.

Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are any ways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate: Finally, at the end of the prayer, we get to the things that we too often put first on the list: health, prosperity, our own personal needs and desires. These things should be included in our prayers, but this particular prayer matches up with God’s priorities, and gets the order gloriously right. In addition, we pray for relief from suffering, but also for patience in times of suffering. Sometimes, God would rather we live a pain-filled life and become patient people who look like Jesus rather than quickly restoring us to a pain-free existence.

And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake: We’ve asked an awful lot from God, and the only ground we could possibly depend on for these requests is the fact that we come to God in the name of Jesus. Amen!

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