Passage: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12
The prayer in this passage begins in 11-12. Paul begins the prayer by saying “with this in mind we pray…” This indicates that in this text we have insight into Paul’s mental process as he prays, informing those of us who come after him how we might pray more like the Apostle.
I. Paul’s prayer begins with thankfulness
“For what do we commonly give thanks? We say grace at meals thanking God for our food; we give thanks when we receive material blessings… We may sigh a prayer of … thanks after a near miss on the highway; we may utter a prayer of sincere and fervent thanks when we recover from serious illness. We may actually offer brief thanksgiving when we hear that someone has…been converted. But by and large, our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If [for instance] a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately.” – Carson, pg. 41.
Note that “Paul gives thanks for signs of grace [amongst those he is praying for].”
A. Paul gives thanks that his readers’ faith is growing (vs.3a ).
B. Paul gives thanks that their love [for one another] is increasing (vs. 3b).
C. Paul gives thanks that they are persevering under trial (vs. 4)
We should take a lesson that Paul values these signs of grace to the highest degree (a truth discerned from the principle that we give thanks for what we value most.) We should emulate this same value system and put it into practice in our prayers.
Example: when praying for your spouse don’t only ask for things (health, sanctification, etc) but spend time thanking God for the signs of grace in their life.
II. Paul’s prayer demonstrates a confidence in the prospect of vindication
A. For believers there will be vindication (vs. 6, 10)
- Note that this indicates Paul’s thought was shaped by the immanence of Christ’s return.
B. For others, there will be retribution (vs. 6-10)
We can take a lesson for what to expect from this life as Christians here on earth from what Paul says about how the return of Christ affects these believers. Note that they are suffering yet when Paul prays for them he doesn’t pray that their suffering would be ended but rather thanks God that they are persevering in suffering. Note too that he doesn’t offer consolation on the grounds that God will alleviate this suffering right now but rather focuses on the ultimate vindication of the Gospel and believers at the second coming.
I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t pray that God would end persecution or suffering (of any kind) in a believer’s life. What I am saying is that when we pray for other believers our prayers could take in to consideration that God might let the suffering stay. As a result we can thank God for what He is doing in the suffering (perhaps teaching a lesson, refining obedience, or simply showing Himself strong in maintaining the faith of those suffering), ask for aid to endure for those who are in the midst of the trial, and then ask for the Lord to remove the trial if it is His will.
Questions for Review and Reflection:
2. What kinds of things in people’s lives should call forth our most profound gratitude to God? Why?
3. How does Paul’s anticipation of Jesus’ return shape his values and his prayers?