This past Saturday the men’s group I lead at my church met for its first monthly meeting of the new cycle. This time around we are studying a small book by T. M. Moore entitled, If Men Will Pray. I think this study has the potential to have great impact in the lives of men and those they influence.
The book is based on 1 Timothy 2:1-8. Four times in the first seven verses Paul explicitly uses the general word for mankind, the word from which we derive our English word anthropology. We might think of Genesis 1:27 where we read that God “created man in His own image …male and female He created them.” Perhaps a good translation for anthropos in 1 Timothy would be “mankind” or “human beings.”
1 Timothy 2:5 helps us to understand the men God has in view: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus died not just for males. He died for human beings of both genders. Hebrews 2:14-17 informs us that Jesus took on full humanity, so that He could be a covenant substitute for those He came to save. Jesus died for humans not angels. That’s why Paul says in 1 Timothy that the “man” (anthropos) Jesus is the one mediator between God and men (anthropos).
But in verse 8 of 1 Timothy 2 Paul uses a different word for men. Now he addresses males. In 2 Timothy 2:1 Paul urges “supplications, prayer, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men (anthropos). Now in verse 9 he specifically calls males out to pick up the mantle of prayer.
As the men were gathered on Saturday, I introduced the book along the lines of my comments above. Then we shared prayer requests and spent time in prayer together.
I am a big proponent of corporate prayer, not only praying for one another but also praying with one another. In His design our Lord attaches certain blessing to believers praying together. Being with others for prayer spurs us on to the task at hand. Their prayers help us to pray. They give us words to which we can echo the ‘amen’ of agreement in our hearts. (see my article on “Need Words: The Case for Corporate Prayer”).
It seems to me that 1 Timothy 2:8 has in view men praying together rather than individually. Paul speaks of men in the plural. But more emphatic is his concern that men “lift holy hands in prayer without anger or quarreling.” That kind of talk suggests plurality. It’s hard to quarrel with yourself. Also, we tend to think of lifting our own holy hands but I wonder if there is any sense of lifting up the hands of one another, as Aaron and Hur did with Moses in Exodus 17:12. Probably not, but it is an agreeable image.
While corporate prayer is beneficial on a number of levels, I did notice something in my prayer with the men on Saturday that requires caution. As the various men led in prayer on Saturday, it was easy to hear the other guys pray and for me to tune out, their voices becoming background noise for my straying thoughts. But that will not do. I was defeating the very benefit of others helping me to prayer by their words.
While in corporate prayer men do lead one another in prayer, the men do not pray for me vicariously any more than they could eat the breakfast for me. If I am going to make their prayers mine then I need to pay attention, engaging my mind and spirit, and devote myself to the work of prayer—shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers in Christ.