Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, 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.
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
– 2 Thessalonians 3:1-12 [ESV]
A young man recently asked that we pray that the Astors would win the ball game. Another time a girl asked that I pray for her puppy that was sick. I was a bit uncomfortable with the former request. I’m not sure God really cares who wins a particular ball game, or even the World Series. Though who can fathom the mind of God? But the little girl’s prayer request captured my heart. I’m reminded of a father’s urgent prayer for his daughter (Mark 5:21-43). I’m not sure we need to judge others’ prayer requests–apart from any that would obviously be against the will of God.
I am impressed by Paul’s prayer requests in his various letters. He prays that a door would be opened for the gospel (Colossians 4:2-4). He urges prayers for kings and all in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-5). He does not pray, however, for an easy life. He doesn’t ask that God will make things easy for him. He does not ask that there be no challenges to his preaching. He realizes that there will be struggle. He knows that we are in a battle with Satan, and that until Jesus does return to judge the living and the dead, the battles will rage on. He urges all believers to put on the full armor of God in that battle (Ephesians 6:10-20). And he asks that they pray for him, “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”
Paul was all about prayer. But he was not all about comfort or ease. He never bragged about how good he had it. Nor did he make a point of showing people how successful he was. In fact, he boasted in his struggles. His life was all about what Jesus told Ananias whom he sent to Saul to restore his sight after his encounter on the road to Damascus. “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name,” he told Ananias (Acts 9:16). But Paul never seems to ask for an easy life. The closest he gets to that is when he asked three times for the thorn in the flesh to be removed from him. God’s answer was clear; “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Then Paul continues, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Paul realized that when we are completely dependent on God we are strongest in our faith. So now his prayer is for God’s word to be received and honored. His heart is for the people who do not know Jesus, whom God has chosen for him to convert. I wonder if his prayer life is instructive for you. I know it is for me.
Open a door for my witness, dear God. Speed your word along through me today! In Jesus’ name. Amen.