The prayers of Paul
This is a new series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in one of the orders he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.
I started this series on the starting and ending prayers in the book of Galatians, the only prayers in that letter, were about grace. 1 Thessalonians starts with a prayer for grace too, because grace is Paul’s message. If you want to read about grace before continuing you can follow the links at the bottom.
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
Faith, love & hope
Moving on from grace, but not forgetting it, this prayer is one of thanks. It is also the first time Paul writes of faith, love and hope together.
Work of faith
It looks at first as if Paul is saying thank you for a job well done. When someone has done something for us we say thank you and mean it because it shows that someone cares for us. We can even be truly thankful when someone was doing it merely for the money, just doing their job.
With Paul it is different. What he is giving thanks for is their motivation: Their motivation being faith in God. It always starts with faith, it always starts with God. We are saved through our faith in God, not by what we do, but that faith motivated us so that the results of faith can be seen. Paul is not thanking the Christians of Thessalonica because of what they do but because of who they are—people who have faith in God.
Labour of love
I can still remember sitting in a hospital where my eldest daughter was undergoing tests for suspected meningitis. Fortunately, they were negative but not knowing was terrible. That is what love puts you through. Recently I have read tweets about how hard it is to parent teenagers. I agree, but it is also the most wonderful time, they enter their teens as children and leave as fully formed adults. We are given the privilege of guiding them through what is a difficult time for them also. The hard times are worth it because of love.
Love makes the hard times worthwhile. Our hope is focused on God. Our love has a dual focus, on God but also on the people God loves. Jesus said that loving our neighbours as we love ourselves was equal to loving God with everything we are and have. Love for other people is hard, there is none of the soft-focus of the Hollywood image of romantic love. It is real because it is difficult, I find other people are difficult, just like I am but acting out of love for them, passing on God’s love for them, is worthwhile because of love, they don’t always say thank you. But we love other people, even the really difficult ones who we know are going to let us down because of God’s love for us. God loves me, a really difficult person who lets him down frequently, I am being asked to pass it on.
Why do I have hope? Because it does not depend on me.
This is an insight into my autistic personality. OK, so I have imposter syndrome, going through times of self-doubt, believing I can do little of any worth, even in things I know I am good at, things which people praise me for. But even in my most realistic moments when I apply the ‘I have done this before so I can do it again’ principle, I know I have limits, limits of exhaustion I do not know until I am exhausted. Yet in hindsight, I know that God can use me because God has used me. Yet the times when God has used me have, generally speaking, have not been the times when I have been feeling close to God, but more realistically times when I knew how far from God I was. But I was available.
That is all God needs to work through people, that they are available. If we had to be holy first then no one would be used by God. That is why God’s choice in who is selected is not the same as mine, I would never have chosen myself. But I was in the right place at the right time with no competence in the field, but God used me and taught me a lesson, we do God’s work in God’s power, not our own.
All you have to do is make yourselves available to God. I am thankful that God found me available. Are you available?