The prayers of Paul
This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order 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 could have named this post, Holding out in a troubled world – Part 3 as this is part of the same prayer that started in 2:13. That someone decided to stick a chapter break in the middle does not stop it from being part of that prayer. The prayer goes full circle, ending in verse 5 with the steadfastness of Christ. We can stay standing firm by holding on to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ.
3 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 ESVUK
What was Paul going through? Thessalonica was a very young church and Paul the great church planting Apostle was asking for their prayers. It was one thing to hear that Paul, the great Apostle, was praying for them, but in this extended prayer he also asks for their prayers, Would they have been expecting that?
It is possible that Paul was teaching them to pray, and was doing that by asking for prayer. There’s no better way of learning to pray than actually praying yourself. But NT Wright says that 2 Thessalonians was written at about the same time as Paul gave his teaching on Mars Hill, Athens, which has minimal results. Paul could have been feeling down at that point. But asking for prayer is a good thing either way, both for the one being prayed for and those praying. Just reading about prayer encourages us to pray.
Prayer is everything. It is through prayer that God is glorified, through prayer that Paul will be delivered from the wicked men he talks about and through prayer that the Christians in Thessalonica will be able to stand firm. They can stand firm not because they are strong enough to stand but because Jesus Christ is their strength, Paul’s words closing the prayer are “The steadfastness of Christ.” Jesus is where a Christian’s strength comes from, whether they are a great Apostle like Paul or a new Christian like the Thessalonians.
The Lord is faithful is the answer to two questions. It is both the reason that Paul will come through despite those who are against him and the reason that the Christians in Thessalonica can stand firm in their faith. In modern parlance, it’s not about you, you do not need to be strong enough in your struggles because God is strong enough, Jesus is steadfast, and you will be given the strength to come through as it is needed.
Tom Wright – Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians, showing as page 152 in the Kindle edition