What is the purpose of these prayers for the civil authorities? Paul tells us in the second half of verse 2, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Paul was very aware of the hindrance that civil unrest could be to the Gospel ministry. For instance, in Ephesus, the very city that Timothy was in when Paul sent this letter to him, there had been a riot concerning Christianity. This is recorded in Acts 19:23-41, and we see that things were so chaotic that Paul’s disciples wouldn’t even let him attempt to speak to the crowd. It wasn’t until the uproar ceased that Paul was able to encourage the disciples and then depart. So we pray for kings and all who are in high positions, recognizing the benefits of living in a place where there is freedom and order. For in this setting we can live peaceful and quiet lives.
This is not to say that we can expect to avoid persecution, or that we should seek to avoid persecution. Paul also said in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Paul is not contradicting that here in 1 Timothy 2. George Knight writes in his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, “An evaluation of Paul’s own life leads one to realize that this ‘quiet’ does not mean a sheltered life but rather freedom from the turmoil that threatened to thwart his ministry” (pg. 117). Thus, Paul instructs us to pray for our civil leaders, that they will exercise their authority justly and honestly and wisely so that we can focus on growing in godliness and spreading the Good News. The evangelistic aspect of this is implied by verse 4, that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Our godly and dignified lives will be a means to that end.
Let us pray for our leaders. Maybe you’re tempted to think that criticism and complaints will have more of an impact than prayer, but the Bible tells us otherwise. As we pray for the president and governors and mayors and judges and members of the congress and senate, who knows what God will be pleased to do through those prayers—for the spread of the Gospel and the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage and the protection of the freedoms we enjoy in this country. I’m convicted by this personally, because I don’t pray nearly enough for our civil authorities. But I’m inspired by this passage to pray earnestly for our leaders, to pray that God will bring them to faith in Jesus, and that they would live upright lives and be men and women of integrity, that they would stand for justice and make wise decisions.
As we ask God for these things we must also use the freedom we have to pursue a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. Think about the amazing freedom we have in this country. Think about the amazing opportunities we have to study God’s Word and have fellowship with other believers and talk about the Gospel openly with friends and family and co-workers and even strangers. We should not take these freedoms for granted, but thank God for them and use them to pursue godliness and the spread of the Gospel.