1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Christself human, 6who gave Christself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time. 7For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.We are exhorted to pray for everyone, even the rulers -- which I think also pointedly means, "even the people we don't like much."
(1 Timothy 2:1-7, NRSV)
Because there is one God and one Mediator -- and neither of them are us. In the prayer that Jesus taught us, we pray "Thy will be done" -- God's will, not ours. Yes, we are Called to be agents of God's Will here on Earth, but that doesn't mean we get to dictate the Plan.
Paul understands himself to have been commissioned to share this Good News. That there is one God -- and one mediator between God and humankind, which is to say, Christ.
We are not God. We are not even mediators between God and humanity. Now, many of us went on retreat in February to reflect on the topic of "prayer," and one of the things we discussed there was the idea that prayer changes God. The Jewish tradition that Paul and Jesus and most of the early Church had inherited was rich with a culture of arguing with God. And I support that. As does Paul, I think. After all, he lists intercessions and supplications in his prayer list.
But I think there's also an important lesson here about getting out of the way a bit. To remember that it is not all about us, that it does not all rest on us, and to shift our focus appropriately. Sometimes all we can do is pray, and sometimes the most useful thing we can do is pray.
One of the powerful images I have encountered for prayer is "getting in tune with God." Sometimes God is (or seems) out of tune, and that's where righteous arguing comes in -- but often we are the ones who are out of tune, and so we are exhorted to recenter ourselves in the one in whom we live and move and have our being.