Future prayer — 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

The prayers of Paul

This is a series of 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.

The story behind the passage: It’s been a tough time for Paul, he has had opposition in Athens and has moved down to Corinth, where it is tougher. He has sent Timothy to the northern cities and Timothy has come back with good news, the Thessalonians are doing well despite persecution. This lifts Paul’s mood, as we can see through this letter.

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For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 ESVUK

What difference good news makes. We know from Paul’s other letters that he could get disheartened, even to the point of using strong language, but here, at a time when we know from Acts that he was having a hard time, he is joyful. Timothy has brought back the good news that the faith of the church in Thessalonica is thriving in the face of difficulties they too are having.

Personal stories are important. When we are going through troubles and we hear of others who have gone through the same stuff it lifts us so that we can continue in joy through the difficulties. In fact, what Paul is saying to the church in Thessalonica is framed by the thanks in chapter one and the thanks in the prayer now. If we concentrate on the positive we will always find something to be thankful for. (I am preaching to myself here.)

In verse 11 Paul moves from thanksgiving to blessing. Prayer is instinctive but also a discipline: We have the instinct to pray but we need to learn how to do it well.

Prayer is grounded in the nature of God, twice in these three short verses Paul mentions our God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ because prayer is based on the nature of the Father and the saving death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul’s prayer is not just based on the good news of Timothy brought, something that could change, but also on the good news of Jesus which is permanent.

But we are not just talking about the present time, there is a future element too. The second context is about the kingdom of God coming on Earth. The Lord’s Prayer, taught by Jesus, says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” Prayer like this looks forward to a time when Heaven and Earth will be brought together in a new way with the person of Jesus as the focus of this kingdom.

But it is meant for us too. We have come throught trials and praying like this prepares the way for the trials to our faith that are yet to come. In the same way as we use the Lord’s prayer as a template, we can use the prayers of Paul, like this one, as a template too.

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