See part 1 and part 2.
Many miss the salvation emphasis in Paul’s command and see 1 Tim 2:1–2 as a general command to pray for our civil leaders. While we should certainly pray for these men and women, the grammar and context indicate that we pray for them with respect to their role as it concerns God’s desire for the salvation of all.
As to grammar, “for kings . . .” continues immediately after “all people” (2:1–2). Since all people include kings and authorities, we can conclude that Paul is giving a parenthetical comment and focusing on a subset of people. In context, we pray for kings and authorities along the lines of how we pray for all people – we should pray for their salvation.
As their role affects society at large, however, Paul does indicate how we can specifically pray for these leaders so that all people might be saved.
First, pray that the leaders would lead in such a way that our lives could be lived in peace and quiet.
The peace and quiet does not refer to the decibel level of our personal households but for peace and tranquility within society as a whole. A peaceful society allows for the spread of the gospel. A hostile society leads to persecution and keep us from proclaiming God’s Word as much as we would otherwise desire.
Second, pray that we would live in this peaceful society in such a way that our lives are marked by godliness and dignity.
Godliness is part and parcel with the gospel, so much so that Paul refers to the gospel as “the mystery of godliness” (3:16). The presence of godliness in our lives assures us of our eternal life now and promises eternal life is to come (4:7–8), is based upon the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ (6:3), is a means of eternal reward (6:7), and is something we must pursue (6:11). It is a tangible expression of the gospel in our lives.
“Dignity” carries some overlap with godliness. Pastors must manage their house “with all dignity” (1 Tim 3:4). Paul uses “dignified” (a word related to “dignity”) as a headword to summarize the requirements of deacons and their wives in 1 Timothy 3:8 and 3:11. It is a broad term indicating “a manner or mode of behavior that indicates one is above what is ordinary and therefore worthy of special respect.”*
Putting these requests together, pray we would continue to live in a society where we can freely interact with unbelievers, and as we interact with them, pray that we would live godly lives so as not to give any reason to reject the gospel. Godliness extends to actually giving the gospel as well.
* BDAG, s.v., “σεμνότης”
Pastor regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our staff page.