(This study is based on the book of Dr D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Priorities from Paul and his prayers [Baker Book House Company, 2007])
Let’s begin and ask the same questions as we asked last week:
- When you pray, what is it that you pray for?
- When you pray, who is it that you pray for?
- If you pray for your congregation, what do you pray for?
Let’s add this one:
- If you do not have the privilege of seeing members of your church regularly, what would you pray for?
Background for Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians
Paul experienced so much opposition from the Jews in Thessalonica that after three weeks of teaching in the synagogue he and Timothy and Silas had to look for some other place to meet with the people. They stayed with a certain Jason, a new convert to Christ. His house was raided, which led to Paul and his companions moving on to Berea. Again the Jews caused problems and Paul left for Athens, requesting Timothy and Silas to join him later.
So, all in all, Paul’s church planting work in Thessalonians was very short. He wanted to establish them in the Gospel, but he had no choice but to leave them in the hands of God. Later Timothy who joined Paul in Athens, returned from Thessalonica to Paul, and brought the good news that the Thessalonians were growing in their love for God, for one another and their faith was growing stronger.
Paul wrote to them and assured them of his prayers for them. Last week we looked at what he later one prayed for them as it is recorded in 2 Thessalonians.
The agony of incomplete fellowship
Being separated from this newly established church with its new converts led Paul to long for them. He missed them and had deep concern for them. He was committed to the well-being of other Christians that he is simply burning up inside.
Look at verse 17 of chapter 2:
But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. (1 Thessalonians 2:17, NIV)
The word orphaned is strong. It refers to a forced separation between people, usually of the same family; it speaks of loss of love and connection. In our day something like separation anxiety describes something this word wants to express.
When Paul was forced to leave them without the pastoral care he knew they needed, he felt he lost family members.
How are things with us? Do we experience the same when one of our number has dropped out of constant worship with us? Do we feel the same as what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 12:
“if one member suffers, all suffer; when one member rejoices, all rejoices”?
It is exactly this love and care for one another that sets the church apart from all forms of social fellowships. And it’s a two-way street: not only do I need to pray, but I need to allow others to really love me. Before we experience this tight bond between members of our church we would probably don’t find the need to pray for one another.
As Christians we need to be committed to the well-being of other Christians, maybe more so new Christians, that we simply burn up on the inside to be with them in nurturing care and provide a stable foundation for their future growth in the Lord.
Praying for the good for others
Let’s make a clear difference between nosy busybodies who always try to meddle in other people’s business, and true Christian love and concern. It’s always about the good of others. The issue is service; the issue is “How can I be most useful – not feel most useful”. How will God be most glorified in the way I help and pray for other people.
Thanksgiving and joy for growth in Christ
What drives us is the glory of God, and what glorifies Him more that the spiritual growth of his church? Is it this growth in others that spurs us on to love them more and pray with thanksgiving for more growth?
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? (1 Thessalonians 3:9, NIV)
Paul is miles away from the people he loved in the Lord. But he gathers at the throne of God in prayer for the Thessalonians. Praying for them in God’s presence, thanking God for them, he rejoices. In other words, God is the only One who is to receive praise for the progress in the spiritual life of that church. We need therefore to pray for others, ask for their spiritual advancement, thank God for it and share our joy in the Lord with them.
This begs the question: do we ever find joy in the presence of God because He has answered our prayers to add joy to other peoples lives? The angles in heaven rejoices over every sinner who repents, and we must join our prayers of joy with them. What brings joy to the heart of God should bring joy to our hearts too!
Support for growth in Christ
Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. (1 Thessalonians 3:10–11, NIV)
Paul’s life would not be complete if he could not be with them again and see that they needed everything necessary for their spiritual growth. Both in our praying and in our immediate personal service we must strive to make up what us lacking in someone’s faith.
Pray for an overflow of love among believers
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12, NIV)
May we be found praying this for one another. It is pointless to pray for numerical growth if There is an obvious lack of Christian live for one another.
Mature Christian love which is deep, unqualified, unwavering, supporting, and genuinely aimed at the glory of God and the spiritual support for one another “…is a rare commodity. When it is displayed, it speaks volumes to a society the gorges itself in self-interest, lust, mutual-admiration pacts, even while it knows very little of love.” (D. Carson)
Prayer for a blameless and holy life
May He [God] strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (1 Thessalonians 3:13, NIV)
Blameless not in the eyes of the world, but in the presence of a holy God. In another verse he says so that you may become blameless and pure, “…in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” (Philippians 2:15, NIV)
All of this in preparation for the coming of the Lord
“When we pray for people we must do so knowing that these people, and ourselves, are inevitably moving toward the last day. When we pray with eternity’s values in view, we are driven to pray for people, because people like you and me are the one who must give account to God on the last day.” (Don Carson)
So let’s sum up:
- We pray for others because we are of the same family
- We pray for what is good for others
- We pray because prayer is to offer spiritual assistance
- We pray for an overflow of love among believers
- We pray for a blameless and holy life among the people of God