“Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance”
(2 Thessalonians 3:1-5).
Paul prayed with thanksgiving for the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul prayed for them — asking God to count them as worthy of the calling so they would bring God glory by the way they lived their lives (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). Paul prayed for God to encourage and comfort the Thessalonians in their ministry
(2 Thessalonians 2:26-17).
After Paul has revealed his prayers for the Thessalonians, he now asks for their prayers for his ministry.
The message. Paul asks them to pray that the message not only will spread rapidly but also be honored wherever it is proclaimed. Could a lack of evangelistic fervor or success betray an underlying problem of prayerlessness? Might a similar focus on prayer ignite a passion for spreading the word? Should we join Paul in praying for the rapid spread of the message? Evangelism is the result of prayer.
The opposition. Paul asks them to pray for his deliverance from evil men. Not everyone accepts the message. Not everyone has faith. In fact, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “not all ‘believers’ are believers.” Some who masquerade as believers are wicked and evil men who are agents of the evil one, seeking to discourage those spreading the gospel. While some men may be unfaithful, God is always faithful. Could it be the discouragement we sometimes experience is rooted in prayerlessness? Deliverance is the result of prayer.
The direction. Paul asks them to pray for the Lord to direct their lives into deeper love and perseverance. Evangelism is rooted in love. Standing firm in the face of opposition requires perseverance. We are never going to convincingly spread the message unless we truly love the people we are trying to reach. How do you learn to love people, particularly if you are one of those people to whom a loving attitude does not come naturally? Paul seems to suggest prayer. How do you continue to press forward into the face of opposition, some of it by men who are nothing more than scoundrels? Again, Paul seems to suggest it happens by prayer. Love and perseverance is the result of prayer.
Paul has been generous in his prayers for the brothers and sisters at Thessalonica. But he does not consider himself to be on a level above them. If he did he never would have asked for their prayer support. He humbly asks for their prayers. He is specific with his request.
Is the message spreading? Spreading rapidly? Are people honoring the message or holding it in contempt? Have you been sidetracked by evil men to the point of giving up? Has a lack of love dampened your zeal and enthusiasm? Are you wondering what you can do to get the situation turned around? May I suggest praying for others and asking them to pray for you. That’s not at all a bad place to start.