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Last time we were in Thessalonians we looked at Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians.
We saw the gift of eternal comfort and good hope by grace simply because of God’s great love for us. Paul prayed for them and this morning Paul makes a very specific prayer request for his associates and himself.
2 Thes. 3:1 says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you.”
As we have seen in the past couple of messages, Paul was a prayer warrior. He told the Thessalonians that he prayed for them. He said the same thing to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Romans, and Colossians. Now Paul makes one final request and asks this young church to pray and he is specific about it too. Biblically, prayer requests are fairly straight forward. Who to pray for. What to pray, etc. But like everything else, it seems we in the modern church have complicated even this basic principle of Christianity. Think about how you pray compared with the prayers found in Scripture.
1 Tim. 2:1-4, says that we are to pray for all men, especially those that are in authority. But the request specifically states to pray for, “A tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” The idea is that when there is peace, those godly people are free to spread the Gospel. But as we’ve seen from 2 Thes. 1, the Gospel spreads even amid persecution. In fact Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes. 1:5 was that they be, “Considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” He is essentially praying that the Thessalonians would continue to spread the Gospel, and all other goodness. This was in the midst of persecution and suffering from the ungodly people that surrounded them. The result of that prayer is found in v. 12, “So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Do our prayer requests sound like that? Or are our requests somewhat selfish? Healing, financial provision, job promotion, for our spouse to straighten up, kids, etc. The end result of those requests is generally for personal gain. Often prayer requests digress into no more than gossip. When you look at Paul’s requests throughout Scripture, you don’t see that. That doesn’t mean he didn’t want people to pray for him, but the emphasis was always that the Lord give him the power and ability to spread the Gospel, that the work of the Lord would continue. Even when we pray and ask for personal growth, it is for growth in the Lord that we would be able to live a life that is pleasing to Him. This always involves spreading the Word. This always involves Christian authenticity. This always involves obedience. I wonder how the power of God would be unleashed if we simply changed our prayer focus from personal gain to Godly gain. Paul’s prayers were always that believers would stand firm in Christ no matter the circumstances; that their faith and love would grow to each other and to all people, and that their love would be manifested in actions that glorify Jesus Christ.
Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray that, “The word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified.” The Word of God was so central in Paul’s ministry. That may seem obvious, but it’s not always like that today. The Word of God has been put on a shelf in many people’s doctrinal positions. It is no longer our primary source of direction. You see it in how they live their lives. You hear it when you talk to people. For the Thessalonians Paul said that, “The Word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere.” (1 Thes. 1:8) 1 Thes. 2:13 says that the Thessalonians received the Word of God from Paul, they received it for what it was – the Word of God.
Paul wanted the Word to spread. In Col. 4:2 Paul asked them to, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.” Paul knew that the Gospel message was the only hope people had and we have the same secret Paul had. Paul wanted the Word to, “spread rapidly.” Literally it means run; to open out; to increase surface area at a great rate of speed. Paul is not talking about running in place. Running means moving forward. Ps. 147:15 says, “His word runs very swiftly.” The Word ran fast to Thessalonica and it ran fast out of Thessalonica to Macedonia and Achaia. It spread everywhere and affected everyone. We would call it a viral spread today. There wasn’t anyone in that area of the world that wasn’t exposed to the life changing Word of God. That doesn’t mean everyone got saved, but they heard it. In Rom. 10:15 Paul says, “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” Paul quotes Is. 52:7. Paul didn’t just live a life of holiness, he talked about Christ and we need to do the same thing.
Paul’s desired goal for his request is found at the end of this first verse. “That the Word of the Lord would spread rapidly and be glorified.” Be glorified or attribute high honor and status. In Acts 13:48, “When the Gentiles heard [the Word], they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Paul desired that the gospel be honored; that it be seen as valuable and for its inherent transforming power. Paul mentions the Thessalonians as proof of the transforming power of the Word. The Word should always be glorified in our lives. The Word is glorified when we live by it. John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The Word is glorified when it runs swiftly from us just like it did in Thessalonica.
When you pray, do you pray for personal gain or for God’s gain? Are you a part of the viral spread of the message of the Bible? Are you glorifying the Word?