A Prayer for New Converts
9 For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith? 11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
The Public Broadcasting Service used to air a show from Canada called the Red Green Show. During the course of the show the men of Possum Lodge would recite The Man’s Prayer. It goes something like this: “I’m a man . . . but I can change . . . if I have to . . . I guess.”
Paul draws a close to the first part of this epistle to the young congregation at Thessalonica with a prayer. In the previous paragraph, Paul gave ten ways to establish new converts in their faith. This perhaps could well serve as number eleven: pray for them. This prayer can serve us as a guideline to pattern our prayers. Unlike The Man’s Prayer from the Red Green Show Paul prays with great confidence that these new Christians will continue to change, grow, and be established in their faith.
■ Pray With Thanksgiving for Them
Paul began this epistle and the next one to the Thessalonians with a prayer (1:2; 2 Th. 1:3). Over forty prayers of thanksgiving or intercession can be found through Paul’s letter. He begins this prayer by saying: “For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God” (3:9).
The brethren were doing well at Thessalonica and for this Paul was thankful to them and for them before God whose goodness made it possible for the church to survive and thrive. Paul had a multitude of things to be thankful for concerning this congregation. One of them was the joy he had over the great news of their steadfast faith. When someone obeys the Gospel they need to know how thankful we are for their reception of the Gospel and the joy that we have as well, as the joy it brings the angels in heaven.
■ Pray Frequently For Them
Notice the frequency in which Paul and his co-workers prayed for them: “night and day” (3:10a). Later in the letter he would command them to “pray without ceasing” (5:17). Paul commanded the brethren at Ephesus, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). Samuel knew that it was necessary for him to pray continually for the Israelites else he would be sinning. “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1 Sam. 12:23). The Apostles were motivated to have seven men appointed over the care of the needy widows so they could give themselves “continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
Corrie Ten Boom: “When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops reading the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy” (Cited in Prayer Powerpoints, Victor Books, p. 109). Without the prayers of Paul, the saints may not have grown or survived. There is great power in the prayer of a righteous man like Paul or Timothy or Silas (Js. 5:16).
■ Pray Earnestly For Them
Paul said that they were “praying exceedingly” (3:10b). This could be translated, “super abundantly.” True prayer is hard work because there are so many souls to prayer for, so many needs to ask for, so many blessings to be thankful for, and so many problems to requiring God’s assistance. To be sure Paul did not just quickly bow his head at night and pray a quick “bless my friends in Thessalonica.” and then jump in bed. His prayers show that the needs and deeds of the brethren were on his mind and that he had meditated upon them. Prayer must spring from a deep well of concern and love for the brethren.
■ Pray to Have Fellowship With Them
One of Paul’s constant longings was “that we may see your face” (3:10c). Satan had hindered him. God had the power, if it was His will, to remove all these obstacles. Although he sent Timothy to check on and comfort them, this was not enough. If God permitted him to go nothing could stop him. It is possible that Paul did pass through Thessalonica on his third missionary journey.
Just as prayer is needed for the individual Christian to maintain his relationship with God so our joint communion with each other requires use to pray for opportunities to be with each other.
■ Pray For Perfected Faith in Them
The purpose of Paul’s longing to see the Thessalonians again was that he might “perfect what is lacking in” their “faith” (3:10d). He prayed that their faith might mature. The word translated “perfect” does not mean that he was going to give them a faith where they could never sin or fail, but it means to equip or adjust anything lacking in their faith. The term is used in regard to the mending of fishing nets (Mk. 1:19). Faith like a muscle needs to be made stronger. God even tested Abraham’s faith calling upon him to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. Just as God tries our faith through trials to purify and strength it, Paul knows that further preaching and teaching will fully supply what may be lacking in their faith.
■ Pray To Their Father and Lord for Them
Paul teaches us that the focus of prayer is on the power and will of Deity: “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you” (3:11). Prayer is directed by Paul to both the Father and Jesus Christ. While praying it is good to remember that it is to our spiritual Father who has the right to answer according to what He deems best. God is not a glorified cosmic bell hop who stands ready to fulfill our every request. Father knows best. Likewise, Jesus Christ is the Lord or boss or master. Prayer is by no means a servant bossing around his master. If Paul is ever to see them again it will be because the Father and the Lord made it possible.
■ Pray for Love to Abound in Them
The prayer for the Thessalonians continues: “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you” (3:12). Obviously, brotherly love is not something which naturally happens as two people meet and greet and form a mutual bond of affection based upon compatible likes and dislikes. The love of the brethren goes deeper and involves more than just passing opinions on non-essentials. Love is something more than an emotion; it is a command which must be fulfilled and must grow and grow. If you have a hard time loving a brother with which you have so little in common, pray and work harder at loving him. The fact that Paul and the others love them is used to motivate them to abound in love for each other. A church family must love each other in order to weather the storms which will arise from within the congregation and from without. The type of love Paul was praying for was a love without borders. It is a love that continues to grow and grow and abound to every one and in every situation. Peter wrote, “ above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).
■ Pray for a Blameless and Holy Heart in Them
Paul wants the Lord to “establish” their “hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father” (2:13a). This indicates that the Lord is not the same as the Father and they have different roles in the spiritual development of the saints. The goal of purpose of this prayer is blameless holy hearts. This does not mean a sinless Christian is blameless because he corrects himself and is forgiven before God. He does this by praying without ceasing. He sins, he prays, he is forgiven before God and now has nothing deserving of condemnation by God. His heart is a heart after God’s own heart. God is Holy and he is holy.
■ Pray Till the Lord Returns For Them
A time limit is placed upon the use of prayer for these saints: “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (3:13b). He prayed that they might continue to live righteously until the Lord comes. After the Lord returns, there will be an end to all intercessory prayers. The phrase “all His saints” could be translated “all His holy ones.” Thus, some believe this is a reference to the angels. It is true Jesus will return with angels but also with the dead saints who will arise to meet Him in the air at the Second Coming.
This prayer can serve as a model for us to use in prayer for the brethren, especially those who are young in the faith.
– Daniel R. Vess