(1 Timothy 2:1-7)
The Jeremiah scripture passage read today is a despairing cry from the heart: “My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. . . . O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night . . .” (8:18, 9:1). The same is true for Psalm 79: “O God, the nations . . . have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the air for food, the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth. They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us” (1-4). Jeremiah laments, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there” (8:22)? The Psalmist laments, “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever (5)? Jeremiah wrote in a time of drought; the psalmist wrote in a time when Israel had been defeated by its enemies.
According to Richard Foster in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, the type of prayer that Jeremiah and the psalmist pray in the scripture passages read today is the Prayer of the Forsaken. The Prayer of the Forsaken is prayed when we feel forsaken by God. Even though we know that God is always with us, there are times when it feels as though he is not. It is Jesus’ cry in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mat. 27:46)?
The Prayer of the Forsaken is one type of prayer, but there are many more. When I was given the Richard Foster book about prayer, I was surprised to see that he wrote about 21 types of prayer! Of course, when we pray, we’re not thinking, “Oh, I’m praying the Prayer of Adoration.” We tend to just pray in a manner that reflects the condition of our hearts, minds, and souls. But it is interesting to think about the fact that there are, at least, 21 types of prayer! What that means to me is that there is no situation, circumstance, or condition that doesn’t qualify for prayer! We can pray about anything, for anything, for anyone, at any time.
The scripture passage from Timothy today points to this fact. Paul wrote in his letter about “requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” (1 Tim. 2:1). He used four different words to describe prayer. Prayers of Request are also called Supplications or Petitionary Prayer. They are the prayers we pray when asking for something for ourselves. Intercessions are Intercessory Prayers. They are the prayers we pray when asking on behalf of someone else. Thanksgivings are the prayers we pray when we are giving thanks to God. And prayers are just, well, prayers!
Paul used four different words to describe prayer and he said to pray for “everyone” (1). And then he went on to name only one particular group of people: “kings and all who are in high places” (2). The reason to pray for “kings and all who are in high places” is “so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity,” which is “right and acceptable in the sight of God our savior” (3).
We can pray about anything, for anything, for anyone, at any time . . . as long as it is acceptable in the sight of God our savior. Whatever it is that we pray, it must be in line with the will and the way of God, which means that it must uphold the two greatest commandments: 1) to love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind; and 2) to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt. 22:37-38).
And so, we come today to pray: about anything, for anything, and for anyone. You can sit in your pew and pray silently. You can come forward and light a candle in prayer. You can come to the prayer team and ask for the team to pray for you. You can come to the prayer team and ask the team to pray with you as you pray. You can choose from 21 types of prayer or just pray. You can pray about something of universal significance, or about something that is important only to you. SHARE STORY. It doesn’t matter. Just pray. Amen.
Sermon preached by the Rev. Amy Johnson, Canton Community Baptist Church, Canton, CT, Sunday, September 18, 2016, the Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost.
 HarperSanFranciso: San Franciso, CA. 1992, 17.