Paul begins to write about some of the practical instructions regarding the duties of the church.
The first thing that he mentions is that people are to publicly pray for all men, and especially the men in government and authority because they will a) have the authority to give a tranquil and peaceful life for the church, directing any mandates or decrees away from the harassment of the church and from hindering the advancement of the gospel, and b) are able to be saved as well.
This is speculation, but perhaps the reason why Paul instructs Timothy to instruct the church to pray for those outside of the faith is because either they had stopped doing so, or were not doing so in the first place. So, Paul gives the positive command to pray publicly, petition openly, entreat earnestly, and give thanks to those in government.
However, maybe out of an overreaction to church history, there is an unfortunate movement in our churches today that is discouraging this very thing. They think that it is not the church’s duty to petition the government to rule according to godly principles because it is not the church’s duty to inform public policy. However, Paul makes it clear in this text that it is the church’s duty to petition especially to those in governmental authority.
There are very clear Biblical principles for the reason why God instituted offices of authority like government. Romans 13 shows that the purpose of the government is to restrain/punish evil and to promote/reward good. If the government rightly executes this mandate, then godliness will be promoted and the wickedness that would disturb the true wellfare of society and the tranquility of the church would be restrained. To know what is objectively wicked (like being absolutely certain that murder is wrong) so as to promote peace is by going to the moral law of God. The only way that a government can rightly execute this is if they are informed by the moral law of God. If what the government rules and mandates is in accordance with the God who established that position of authority, then those rules and mandates will ultimately promote and protect the true church of God.
So, we have Paul encouraging the church to petition the government to rightly execute their function as an institution appointed by God, and accountable to God, so as to maintain peace and civility where true godliness and dignity may more freely flourish.
John A. Broadus more eloquently put it this way:
“When the problem raised by truth involves conduct that reaches beyond person-to-person relations to social institutional relations, the preacher’s task grows more problematical. We live not only in a world of persons but of powerful social organizations and institutions, which exert constant and relentless pressure upon the moral and spiritual life of individuals. The preacher cannot be indifferent to these wider and more complex areas. He must pass unflinching judgment upon the wrongs of society; he must voice the Christian principles of righteousness and justice and good will; he must stir the consciences of men to meet the conditions and practices of the social order with unselfish devotion to truth and honor and common humanity. This duty has already been emphasized in the discussion of ethical preaching.
“But what shall he propose in a practical way? Devise strategies and programs for labor or for capital? Write platforms for the political parties? Propose and advocate particular statutes for legislative bodies? Agitate for particular solutions of the race problems? Turn expert in international procedures? Obviously such things are beyond his ability and outside his function. he is not an expert social planner. He is a prophet, a seer, and critic, and voice of high conscience in the name of God. He should not be complacent in the belief that society is impersonal organization and natural process. Society is composed of men, women, and children. The forms of society are created and managed by persons. The human factor is determinative of many things, including principles and goods. Human responsibility for the social order is therefore real, and the preacher must not permit complacency in himself or in those who hear him.
“He must ask burning questions of persons: ‘Where is thy brother? What meaneth this bleating of sheep?’ But he must ask in knowledge, not ignorance, speaking out of an understanding of conditions and problems won by diligent study. With such understanding he will be able to affix blame where blame lies and to propose with boldness the ways and means that brotherhood, honesty, high motive, and reverence for God will suggest. Such is the preacher’s function.
It is within his province and responsibility to bring every kind of evil, individually and corporately upheld, to the light and judgment of Christ’s moral principles, and then to insist that men put these principles to the test where they are, making adventure along paths which an enlightened conscience can choose.” (On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, ed. Jesse Weatherspoon, Harper and Brothers, 1944. 214)