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THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

By Ted Schroder,
January 28, 2018

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.

“Pray for us”

Prayer is at the heart of the Christian life. Prayer is counter-cultural. All our instincts and training prompt us to activism. It is hard for us to be still and to learn how to pray. All the books I read on successful leadership emphasize the initiatives that we must plan and implement if we are to fulfill our goals in life. We all have “to do” lists we must complete every day. There is always so much to do. While these are, of course, necessary, they can squeeze out our primary responsibility of prayer. Jesus went off by himself and prayed. The crowds were always clamoring for his attention to meet their constant needs. The apostles joined together constantly to pray (Acts 1:14). The early church met together and prayed for boldness and courage and the power of the Holy Spirit in the face of persecution (Acts 4:29-31). While academic studies of the Scriptures, church history and doctrine are basic tools for the preacher, they must be bathed in prayer otherwise they become sterile. The apostles tell us that their priority was to give attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). Too many pastors neglect prayer.

“It is not enough for priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership. The central question is, Are the leaders of the future men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God’s presence, to listen to God’s voice, to look at God’s beauty, to touch God’s incarnate Word, and to taste fully God’s infinite goodness?

The original meaning of the word ‘theology’ was ‘union with God in prayer.’ Today theology has become one academic discipline alongside many others, and often theologians are finding it hard to pray. But for the future of Christian leadership it is of vital importance to reclaim the mystical aspect of theology so that every word spoken, every word of advice given, and every strategy developed can come from a heart that knows God intimately.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, p.43f.)

Paul, here is requesting that his readers pray continually for him and his companions. Not perfunctory prayer, but continuous prayer. Pray for your pastor. Pray for the preacher. Pray for the leadership of the church. Pray for your loved ones. Pray for one another. How to do this? We produce an annual Prayer Manual which contains a monthly cycle of prayer for members of the congregation and for our Outreach ministries. We also have some aids to prayer and sample prayers that you can use or that can stimulate you to pray.
What is the content of Pauline prayer?

“That the word of the Lord may speed rapidly and be honored, as happened among you.” (ESV) The image is that of the word of the Lord as an athlete: living, active, having direction and moving rapidly to the finish line. Just as the message of the Gospel sped into their hearts and transformed them into followers of Christ, pray that this same Word may speed into the hearts and minds of all who hear it. For this to happen their gospel had to come to them “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5).

The gospel may be preached often, but it may not speed ahead and be honored in the consciousness of the hearers. I heard the gospel in my childhood but it was not until I was a teenager that it became active and penetrated my heart. Preaching has to be anointed and passionate if it is to become powerful in its effects – not histrionically with the volume turned up and shouted to get attention – but earnestly and with authenticity. It should be energetic as all exercise needs to be to be effective. The Fitness Centers that are proliferating today are the centers for social connections and holistic life improvement. Churches have to be spiritual fitness centers where the word of the Lord is alive and effective in life transformation.

Pray that this may happen. Build it into the paradigms of ministry for the next generation. It was built into me at the beginning of my ministry when John Stott gathered us together in his study on Saturday nights to pray for the preaching of the Gospel the next day. We knelt on the floor and pled that the word of the Lord might spread rapidly and be honored. Our leadership gathers for prayer each Sunday morning before worship for the same reason.

Pray for us...”that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.”

There is much opposition to the gospel which causes great discouragement amongst us. We are engaged in a spiritual battle. We are to stand against the schemes of the devil. In a culture that wants to reduce all reality to the physical and the material there is a resurgence of interest in the demonic, in vampires, astrology and zombies. There are extremists on every side which makes it challenging to maintain a biblical balance. We have become so aware of our personal weaknesses and dysfunction that we can attribute every setback, every failure, to our own psychological obsessions and compulsions. Wicked and evil men and women accuse Christians of being the problem and we can eat humble pie and seek to placate them. But all too often we are dealing with the schemes of the devil who is trying to defeat and demoralize us.

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
The answer to the opposition and attacks of the evil one is the faithfulness of God. He will strengthen you and protect you. He will not abandon you or let you down. Trust in his faithfulness. I have experienced much opposition in my life and ministry. It sent me to my knees in prayer. God was always faithful. He would send people to me to encourage me and the enemy was defeated. Christians must expect and be prepared to deal with opposition. We face much opposition from secularism today but we must not be discouraged by it. The Lord is faithful and he will give us the strength we need. We face discouragement in marriages, in parenting, in the pressures on our children, in role models, in the drive for success even in the ministry. All these pressures should cause us to trust in the faithfulness of the Lord to strengthen us when we feel so weak and vulnerable.

“And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.”The Lord gives us confidence in what we are doing. Sometimes we cannot see the results of our lives. We are called to be faithful in sowing the seed of the Word. People will disappoint us and leave us despite all the time we have invested in them. But some seed will fall on good soil and the Lord will produce a harvest.

Paul closes with his command: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” As we continue on our journey in Christ, beyond the roadblocks of Satan, we find ourselves on a journey of our hearts into a deeper experience of the love of God – the love God has for us – and the perseverance of Christ – the unswerving purpose and loyalty to the mission we have been given despite the greatest trials and suffering. We must expect nothing less and can look forward to becoming all that Christ means for us to be in him.


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