"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension." (1 Timothy 2:5-8)Paul is continuing his previous thought where he instructed us to pray for "all men" because God desires that "all men" would be saved and come to a knowledge of Him. As believers, it is easy to become isolated and cloistered, to focus all our attention upon ourselves and to see ourselves as separate from others in the world. However, the Gospel is all inclusive, it is for everyone, and the love and grace of God is accessible by all. The one mediator though which we pray is the very same mediator through which the world is invited to come and know God. Jesus did not come to save some, but He came to save all and to grant forgiveness and eternal life to all who would receive Him. If we are human, then we are one with the human race, and as such, aught to be willing to pray for all, not just ourselves.
Paul, writing to Timothy, instructing him what he should teach and command the church at Ephesus, says that "First of all" (1 Timothy 2:1) we should pray. God has said of His house, whose house we have become if we have received faith in Christ, "And [I will] make them joyful in My house of prayer... For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples." (Isaiah 56:7) In many of the churches I have been involved with over my lifetime, many of them could be called a house of worship (or at least singing), a house of teaching, or even a house of praying for people (in prayer lines etc.) but few that I would call a house of prayer. When we did pray corporately together, it was often in separate meetings attended mostly by women. It is interesting that Paul commands the men to pray, partly I believe because women are more naturally bent towards prayer and it was the men who needed to be challenged to prayer.
It seems to me that that we, or at least some of the churches I have attended, have lost the centrality and primacy of prayer in our gatherings. There is an aspect of prayer that is personal and individual, but there is also an aspect that is public and corporate. We should seek to find a way to return prayer to its "first of all" status, placing prayer ahead of our own desires for worship and teaching.
Our prayers aught also to be from a pure heart. Paul contrasts the lifting up of clean hands with the utterances of a filthy heart. In fact, not only in our prayers, but Paul also urges us to "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." (Philippians 2:14) Here he uses the same word for "disputing" as he does for "dissension". The idea of this Greek word are the thoughts and reasonings that rise up within us to disturb our soul and to provoke us to anger and wrath. Jesus used this same word, here translated "thoughts," when he said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts." (Matthew 15:19) How can we pretend to life up holy hands when we have anger and malice in our hearts? Others may believe us to be pious, but God looks beyond our posture to see the contents of our hearts. Jesus told us to "first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also." (Matthew 23:26) Pure hands and a pure heart, that is what God desires.