Thanksgiving for all Men
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” (1 Timothy 2:1)
This is a huge scripture. This is a command. There are no exceptions here, no people whom the Lord does not wish us to pray for, intercede for and give thanks for. The scripture goes on to talk about those in authority particularly. It was an exhortation given to Timothy by Paul the apostle in the midst of governmental persecution. This scripture is just as much for our benefit as it is for the people we are called to pray for.
Honestly, I find this extremely hard to obey, but I am getting there. It flies in the face of my carnal instinct. Well isn’t that the gospel! In the midst of a dark world, with evil decisions made at the highest level, why should we give thanks for all men?
Sure, it’s a joy to thank God for the righteous, those whom inspire us unto godliness. But why give thanks for the unrighteous? Remember, we are never giving thanks for evil, but we give thanks for the person because of the next three verses and something Paul touches on in chapter 4: “. . . that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 1:3-4)
First, thanksgiving sets something or someone apart unto God. Later on in the same epistle Paul writes, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5) There is no partiality with God and thanksgiving sanctifies and sets apart. Thanksgiving meekly places someone in God’s hands and out of ours (freeing us from our controlling propensity) and that’s the best place for anything or anyone.
Second, the giving of thanks is the quickest way for each of us to walk in the peace of God. We enter His gates wearing that reverential, grateful, trusting, humble posture. Thanksgiving is the enemy of pride, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, strife, contention, comparison, jealousy, envy and finally, perhaps the most dangerous - offence. But the list of dark inheritance in the absence of thanksgiving (Romans 1:21) surely goes on.
Third, thanksgiving is right focus. Can we honour someone for who they are, without stumbling over who they are not? This is the grace of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:8). Every person is made in the image of God and God desires that all men (this includes women) be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, irrespective of the decisions they are making in any given moment. Thanksgiving is about apprehending a divine, gracious perspective, which transcends our knowing and seeing “in part.” God loves each person, created them fearfully and wonderfully, knows everything about them, and Jesus died for them. So we give thanks for them in order to walk in heaven’s eternal, prophetic perspective, ushering God’s purposes into the earth as we do so.
Here’s a prayer tip: take a photo of the person whom you know you need to pray for. Look at the photo with God long enough to see the person apart from their actions and apart from your judgements. Look at the photo until your heart is soft, until you apprehend the heart of God, by the Holy Spirit. We cannot afford to operate in the flesh, or a spirit which is not the Holy Spirit, we must carry the heart of God. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”, said Jesus.
Is there a place for rebuke, correction, righteous anger? Absolutely (2 Timothy 3:16). The scripture reads, “Be angry and sin not”. In my opinion, the “sinning not” is ensured by our lovefuelled intercessions and giving of thanks for people in the midst of any conflict- it ensures our hearts are kept pure and soft as we speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It ensures we are walking in perpetual grace, mercy, forgiveness and freedom. If there is anyone we cannot give thanks for, we are bound (Matthew 18:21-35). Thanksgiving sets us free! This is something I am learning slowly, sometimes painfully, but surely. Here, we really need the fear of God, the beginning of wisdom.
Why not take a few people in high office, or any close to you, particularly those whom you strongly disagree with, or those even who have betrayed you, and ask for God’s heart for them today? Forgive, pray and give thanks for them. This is Christlikeness. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do . . .”
(The above article is an excerpt from Dom's book Firebrand, which can be purchased here)