“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
Sometimes when I read passages in which Paul reveals the heart of his prayer life, I feel shallow. Too often my prayers focus on things temporal, things that before you know it will be forgotten or considered insignificant. Not so with Paul. In this passage Paul reveals the end of prayer. Not “end” in the sense of the cessation of prayer; but “end” in the sense of “goal.”
Paul’s prayers are filled with God-conversation about people living in God’s calling. He talks to God about energizing people: giving his brothers and sisters the power they need to faithfully act on their good intentions. “To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call. . .” (verse 11 NRSV).
Paul’s prayer-objective is to see people live out their faith in order to bring glory to God through the life they are living. God’s strength is essential for such glorification to be realized. People can have the best of intentions, but without God providing the muscle through His grace there will not be real change in their lives, just more of the “same old, same old.”
But when God’s gracious gifts are received and embraced, amazing things can happen. Real change begins to take place from the inside out. Hearts are softened. Wills are strengthened. Good intentions and good ideas are turned into concrete actions. Love emerges. Faith lives. The Spirit reigns.
In other words, a life worthy of what God wants begins to emerge. Perfection? No, not at all. Just read the rest of this letter and you see that Paul is not expecting exact faultlessness but he is expecting change. Many of us have just settled into a routine of Christianity that has little expectation of real change taking place. We wave our hands and say something about how wonderful is God’s grace. We become dismissive of our sinful patterns of living that are so very comfortable. Such an attitude is just not acceptable. Like Paul, we need to pray for change.
Paul is praying about matters of utmost importance. He is praying for change, significant change, to take place in the lives of the Christians in Thessalonica. Please understand Paul is not writing about self-achievement, but a living out of the faith empowered by the gift of God’s grace. We receive the gift of God’s presence and power even though we are completely undeserving. An inability or even refusal to change our behavior to a lifestyle worthy of God’s calling is a sure indication that we are not open to God’s power being unleashed in our lives.
Change is an indication that prayer is bringing requests right to the throne of Almighty God and He is providing the needed impetus for transformation to take place. How am I going to make the changes I need to make so that I can bring the glory to God that I want to give and He so deserves? I am going to have to reconsider the end of prayer. Where do my prayers lead? Where are they going? What am I seeking? It is time for us to get out of the shallows and dive out deeply and boldly into the depths of God.
May God be glorified! That is, the end of prayer.