This last Sunday, we looked at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. The Apostle Paul, after having planted the church in Thessalonica, is quickly taken away. Eventually making his way to Athens, he receives word from his faithful co-laborer, Timothy, that the church is doing well, and he quickly dispatches a letter of encouragement to them. Shortly after that, he writes a second letter in which he again encourages them, especially in light of their affliction for the name of Christ, and addresses their concerns about the Lord’s return. At the end of 2 Thessalonians chapter one, Paul speaks to the nature of his prayer for the Thessalonian church. As he regularly prays for them, Paul prays that “God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 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.” In this prayer of Paul, we see two things. First, we see the purpose: “that Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him.” Second, we see the means by which the purpose will be met: that God, according to his grace, would continue to work in their lives, namely by making them worthy and by fulfilling every resolve for good and every work of faith. In other words, Paul recognizes that God has called the Thessalonians to himself, he has saved them, and he is sanctifying them, making them more and more like their Savior Jesus, so that they might be worthy of his calling. Not only that, Paul prays that God would fulfill every resolve they have for good and every work of faith. As James says in his letter that faith without works is dead, Paul does not separate faith from work. Those who are saved will be zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). Paul knew firsthand the circumstances in which the Thessalonian church was living. They had received the word in much affliction. It was not easy to be a follower of Jesus in Thessalonica. But Paul does not pray that they might be delivered from affliction. The focus of his prayer is not their temporal circumstances. His love for them and his prayer for them goes much deeper. In his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation, D. A. Carson comments on Paul’s prayer and challenges the often temporal focus of our own prayers:
And so the text asks us: When was the last time you prayed this sort of prayer for your family? for your church? for your children? Do we not spend far more energy praying that our children will pass exams, or get a good job, or be happy, or not stray too far, than we do praying that they may live lives worthy of what it means to be a Christian?
This Thursday, May 7, is the National Day of Prayer. As we pray for our nation and for God’s church in America, will we pray like Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church? –Pastor Dave