James Nisbet Commentary - 1 Timothy 2:1 - 2:2

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James Nisbet Commentary - 1 Timothy 2:1 - 2:2

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‘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.’


We cannot, certainly, be Christians without believing in the power and efficacy of the intercession of one on behalf of another. God is a Spirit. Just as in the religious world and in the language of Holy Scripture we say God is Love, God is Light, God is Goodness, Righteousness, and Strength, so in the world of science we say God is Power, Force, Law, and Order. If on the one hand it is heresy and pantheism to say that everything is God, on the other hand it is the most profound Catholic truth to say, God is in everything, and He upholds all things by the word of His power.

I. Is prayer superfluous?—But if that be so, it will be said by those who wish to expel Him from His own universe, that God knows best what is for the good of ourselves and of our friends, and that to intercede with Him on their behalf is superfluous. Ah! that is not the mind of God. In endowing us with the gift of freewill, He has determined that we should be moral agents in the matter of His gifts and blessings as in everything else. The ordinary results of His Providence He bestows on all who are born into the regular conditions of humanity—life, breath, air, sunshine, rain, food, and the like. But where special exercises of His energies are needed and desired, in the things either of the mind or body, these He reserves for those that ask Him.

II. Prayer for others.—If we are genuine servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall pray even more for others than we do for ourselves. As Christ in glory intercedes for us, so ought we to intercede for men. In proportion to our faith, love, and zeal, will our intercessions be heard.

III. No stint on the temper of prayer.—We should place no stint whatever on the temper of prayer and on the habit of bringing the wishes of our hearts, whether for ourselves or others, before God. ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.’ So great is the power that it becomes one of the strongest motives in the cultivation of holiness. The nearer we are to God the more we shall prevail in our prayers for those whom we love.

Archdeacon William Sinclair.


‘The saintly Bishop Jackson, whenever he was at home in the afternoon, used to retire to his room at four o’clock, and there for an hour, with the list of the clergy of the diocese spread out before him, he concentrated his thoughts on the character of each in turn, and poured out his heart for them to Almighty God, according to their circumstances, needs, and characters. There were few of his clergy, down even to curates lately ordained, of whom he had not formed some definite notion; and he was thus able, as their father in God, to bring all his sons, young and old, before the throne of grace.’


‘I exhort … that … prayers … be made … for all that are in authority.’


It is a hard thing to be in authority. The man in authority must live his whole life in the fierce glare of public criticism. It also appears hard to realise that we have a duty to those in authority. The man in authority seems so far removed from us, so independent of anything that we can do. Yet we have such a duty—a practical duty expressed by St. Paul in his exhortation to prayer for those in high places.

I. The authority of bishops.—May I beg you to apply what I have said to bishops, not because I desire to unduly magnify the office of the episcopate, but because bishops need the prayers of the faithful for the right performance of their public duties. They are men in authority. Whatever may be thought of episcopacy as being of the esse of the Church, facts are stubborn things, and it is a fact that great authority is entrusted to a bishop.

(a) The greatest authority of the bishops is based upon the bishop’s relationship to the great Head of the Church. A bishop may be nominated to his high office by the Crown—as in England. He may be elected by the people—as in Australia. He exercises his episcopal authority primarily neither for the Crown nor for the people, but for the great Bishop of our souls. So necessarily a bishop’s authority in its highest sense is pastoral.

(b) A bishop has authority also as a custodian of the faith. Upon him more than upon others is laid the duty of banishing and driving away ‘erroneous and strange doctrine.’

II. The responsibility of the people.—I have not scrupled to indicate how weighty is the responsibility of a bishop. Have you no responsibility? Consider the duty of praying for bishops in the light of present needs.

(a) Pray that the bishops may have alert and unprejudiced minds. Age gives wisdom, but it does not always give the open child-like mind to catch the whisper of God’s voice.

(b) Pray that the bishops may have courage to speak and to act without fear or prejudice. This is not easy to do. It demands courage from a bishop to do his duty in England to-day without fear or prejudice, and he is strangely constituted who has never felt the dread of adverse public opinion, so often blind and cruel in its force. Yet if they fear men they are not the servants of Christ Jesus. Pray, therefore, that those in authority in the Church may be without fear.

(c) Above all, pray that they may have a complete and compelling adherence to the Blessed Lord. Wisdom is good. Courage is good. The heritage of the past, the opportunities of the present, the hopes of the future, stimulate and uplift our lives, but these are vain without Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being.

Bishop G. H. Frodsham.


‘More things are wrought by prayer

Than this world dreams of. Wherefore let thy voice

Rise like a fountain for me, night and day.

For what are men better than sheep or goats

If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer.’