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Men and Women at Prayer. – 1 Timothy 2:8-11


Where Paul Grasps the ‘Gender Nettle!’

Text:  1 Timothy 2:8- 11

Men and women are different!  Paul recognises this when he teaches about worship, and about prayer.  He is urging Timothy to bring some regulation to the worship at Ephesus, where there is a tendency to waste the worship time by worthless arguments and disputes.  Instead, worship must be regulated to be in line with the will of God, as revealed to man in His Word.  So, recognising the difference between the way men think, and the way women think, he says:

1. Men Should Pray with Humility!

In verse one, Paul has spoken of all men, ανθρώπων – man in the sense of mankind, but here the reference is to A MAN, ανδρέας – a person of the male gender.  What would hinder a man when he is praying?   Let’s see:-

  1. An apostolic command. I will therefore The instruction here is very forceful.  It is not a request – it is an order, given by apostolic authority.  It is an imperative, not an option.
  2. A universal application. men pray every where, We are to pray everywhere. Wherever the church meets, the regulations about prayer and by extension, about worship were the same.  There must always be…
  3. A reverent approach to God. lifting up holy hands  Paul is assuming that men will pray standing, with outstretched arms, palms facing upward.  This was the posture for prayer in the synagogue (Isaiah 1:15) and it seems to have been carried over into the early church.  But in this context it’s not the posture that’s the most important but the attitude of prayer.   Psalm 24:3-4 : Clean hands!  Let’s examine our deeds!   Pure heart!    Our approach to God, our efforts to ascend into His Holy Hill are futile in our own strength. What we can’t do because of our sin, JESUS DID FOR US!  We can only approach God in and through Christ Jesus, and no other way.    John 13:8
  4. A forgiving trusting heart. without wrath and doubting ( χωρις οργης και διαλογισμου – anger and quarrelling).   Anger ruins our prayers!  It is no accident that in His Model Prayer, Jesus tells us to say, ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive the sins of others…’  Look how many times Jesus reiterates this point.  Disbelief ruins our prayers!  The original language could also mean ‘disputation’ and there is no doubt that many a prayer has been ruined by pointless disputes among Christians. But the AV and NKJV are probably equally right in translating διαλογισμού as ‘doubt’. Doubt ruins our prayers.  We pray in faith, believing that we are praying to the God who hears our prayers and always answers according to His divine will and purpose.

The biggest problem for a man, which might hinder his prayer life is proud, unresolved anger, an unforgiving spirit and unbelief.  Paul gets right to the heart of it.  His direct order is to come into God’s presence with humility and holiness and to pray, wherever we are, with forgiveness and faith.

2. Women Should Pray with Modesty!  In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

Ladies – what will you wear to go to church?  We should avoid…

  1. The distraction of appearance!   We must never dress in such a manner as to draw attention to ourselves and to distract from the primary purpose of worship, which is to meet with Christ, to focus on him, to learn from His Word.  Anything that takes our eyes off Jesus is a pointless distraction, whether it is by an overt display of femininity or dressing to make a point, or ostentatious fashion or celebrity- imitating trendiness.  Worship is not about ME or my fashion sense.  It’s about Jesus, and what God the father has done in us through Him.  Instead of a distracting appearance, women should be adorned with…
  2. The decorum of good works!  Now how should we dress, and according to Paul, woman in particular?  We should not be imitating this world, with its celebrity culture and promiscuity.  We should be adorned with GOOD WORKS!   Matthew 5:14

So a woman at worship must dress appropriately, not imitating the world – her attractiveness is not in her appearance, but in her kindness, her love and service for others, her compassion and forgiveness – her good works, reflecting her Christian faith.

Now we must remember that Paul is dealing specifically with the situation at Ephesus, where men argued and fought over irrelevant matters, and where women were dressing like the promiscuous celebrities of the world around them.  These things were hindering them from prayer.  Ruining their prayer  and their worship.  But the general principles he expresses are timeless.  What hinders my prayer?  Is it because I am unwilling to forgive a brother?  Is it because I am angry with someone?  Is it because I am so self centred that I am more concerned with what I look like outwardly rather than my outward life reflecting the inward change that occurred?  Colossians 3:5-17

© Bob McEvoy

One Comment
  1. George P. permalink

    Bob, you are also grasping the “nettle” and I appreciate this. I recall that “a text out of context is a pretext”. I accept that Paul’s teachings were applicable to the churches in the 1st century when the new churches would be directly compared with the activities of the pagan temples and female leaders might be compared to ritual prostitutes. That context is not something that is prevalent today. I am not advocating that women (or men) dress immodestly in church but is there not some room for recognizing the historical context of Paul’s instruction? When was the last time you observed men standing in church with their heads covered by a prayer shawl?

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