1 Thess 3:9-13
Prayer, what is it? And what is good for? Before we try and answer those questions, let’s look at what the bible says about prayer. First, it’s a command from God….. “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6. Second, it is to be offered by us to a holy God…… “Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray.” Psalm 5:2. Third, we have the privilege to pray only through the saving grace of Christ…… “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Eph 2:18. Fourth, it is to be done through the Spirit…… “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” Jude 20-21. Fifth, it’s lifting up one soul to God…….. “Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” Lam 3:41. Sixth, it’s to be offered with sincere lips…… “ O LORD, attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.” Psalm 17:1. See prayer is something that we have as a privilege, not a right but a blessing that has been freely given to us by a holy God through the finishing work founded in the gospel. That’s what prayer is church family; a command, recognizing who is our God, a privilege through the saving work of Jesus Christ, a genuine desire through the work of the Spirit and its exalting God because we desperately need Him for everything.
So what is prayer good for! The answer is found in this portion of Paul’s letter! Let’s read (v9-v13). We need to understand as we read any letter by Paul that he is a passionate, zealous, loving and jealous man of the gospel, who is very transparent; whether he is speaking, writing or praying. This is how we are to be in the church! Transparent and open [an open book] not to gossip or point fingers but to come along side and help and lift each other up to a holy God who desires His children to walking together hand in hand in the gospel. The prayer that Paul gives here in these short sentences is something I want you to think about as we dissect this beautiful prayer. Can you pray this prayer for those in this sanctuary? Paul exemplifies for us that we can and should pray this for one another. Why? Paul knew prayer is a vital piece to the Christian life and its one of the pillars of the church.
As Luke penned these words “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42. So I ask you again! Can you truly pray this prayer, for those who are seating in this sanctuary? Paul was a man who willing shared…. his doubts, hopes, concerns, joys, sorrows and weaknesses. But the most profound thing Paul loved to share was his prayer life. Through his prayers we can see into the heart of a man’s love for God and his love for God’s elect children. As one Theologian said “a genuine love for Jesus produces a profound love for the church, and you cannot love God’s church if you do not love God’s people." Paul shows us how you and I ought to pray for one another…the reason we pray! So we are going to see how you and I can answer that question that I put before you this morning! Can you pray this prayer?
WE ARE TO BE PASSIONATE IN OUR PRAYERS FOR ONE ANOTHER.
Paul’s loved those people dearly and praying for these people meant the world to him. (v9-v10). The emphasis in (v10) “day and night” is not so much on what time of day he prayed, but rather on how fervent he was in praying for them. E. M Bounds spoke of this kind of passion when praying! “The praying which makes a prayerful ministry is not a little praying in as we put flavor to give it a pleasant smack, but the praying must be in the body, and form the blood and bones. Prayer is no petty duty, put into a corner; no piecemeal performance made out of fragments of time which have been snatched from business and other engagements of life; but it means that the best of our time, the heart of our time and strength must be given” We often don’t take prayer seriously and we sometimes –pass it off as meaningless and why bother! Paul’s fervency in prayer is the pattern we should be following, whether it’s privately and corporately. Think about when you child asks you for something, you will never hear them beat around the bush when they make their request. They let their parents know exactly what they want and how badly they want it. But given the lack of fervency and passion in some of our prayers, no wonder many of them go unanswered. We lack the zeal and passion when we pray and we treat as a duty, rather than a passion to lift each up, to a holy God. Are you prayer constantly for one another on a daily basis? If you’re not…… you better keep listening to this letter from Paul. If you are…….you better keep listening to this letter from Paul.
WE ARE TO BE PERSISTENT IN OUR PRAYERS FOR ONE ANOTHER.
Praying earnestly or exceedingly helps us to understand the intensity or the focus of our prayers as we see here with Paul. It’s the idea of not being distracted or wandering in your thoughts as the disciples did in the garden. Jesus said this “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matt 26:40-41. The emphasis of Paul’s prayer resolves around his “need” or desire for God to “direct” his way back to them. Again as we read here in (v11) “….direct our way back to you” we have already seen in the previous chapter (2:18) “…we wanted to come to you.” What I find amazing with this prayer is that Paul didn’t have a long list of things or names to fill the air with his prayer time. He had one desire! To be with them. As one writer said “Paul’s prayers were specific, persistent and always focused.”
“direct” is the idea of conducting one straight to a place, and not by a round-about course. He didn't ramble on or have a list to go through as you would if you went shopping. He was focused [persistent] on this burden and the burden he had for this church. It’s the same way we should approach prayer for one another. Where have we seen this kind of persistence? In Luke chapter 11 we read “And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, or a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, 'Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything'? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:5-13
Persistence conveys the idea of “urgency, earnestness, boldness and relentless” It’s the idea of someone begging on the streets for food or money. Jesus, always taught a healthy prayer life is persistent and specific. We come boldly, not arrogantly! But boldly to the throne with our praise and petitions. We are to do the same when we pray for one another. Though we may not get the answers right away, we must preserve with the specifics and wait for His good timing.
WE ARE TO BE PURPOSEFUL IN OUR PRAYERS FOR ONE ANOTHER
Spiritual growth was Paul’s deepest desire for these young in the faith Christians. Even though this was a faithful church and walking in the right direction, Paul was always concerned for the spiritual well-being with his prayer focused that they would grow deeper and stronger each and every day. We see that in (V10) “that we may see your face, and perfect what was lacking in your faith?” It’s the idea that I “might render it complete, or fill up anything which is missing.” It’s not that Paul thought the church was wishy-washy; he just wanted to see them grow stronger spiritually. So he prays this very specific and purposeful prayer! (v11-13). That you may increase more and more by His sovereign grace…“abound in love” gives the idea that their love to be enlarged and made abundant, taken together gives the meaning of"increase to overflowing"! “Agape love” by definition is….. the love of choice and of serving with humility. It is the highest kind of love, the noblest kind of devotion, the love of the will (intentional, conscious choice) and not done for appearance or motivated by emotional attraction. Clearly this was not a loveless church, as we read in the opening remarks of Paul’s letter. (1 :3)
Can you pray this prayer for one another?
Remember what Jesus said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 1:34-35. In John’s small letter he said this “If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 1:20-21. Though this is something will never reach this side of Heaven, but it’s something we need to strive for and pray for each and every day. As you grow in your relationship with Christ, you will also be growing in your love for one another. “May the Lord cause you, may the Lord make you increase” in your love for one another.
Charles Swindoll, identifies at least four ways that we can express this kind of love to one another.
- Listen to others, including those who hold viewpoints with which you disagree.
- Demonstrate grace by looking past people’s “faults” to see their strengths.
- Recognize the value and dignity of other human beings, regardless of their background [But I would also include age]
- Show God’s love by selflessly serving and sacrificing for others.
That’s how we can increase in loving one another! Seeking the interest of others over ourselves. That’s what it mean s to love others as Christ loved you! But Paul also prays that the Lord would “establish your heart blameless in holiness” This is an example of a walk worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ. That you may be established, and be without blame in the Day of Judgement. Can you pray this prayer for one another? This world wants to conform and entice us into its mold…..so this is where we need to purposefully pray for one another…fervently as Paul did for these believers. The world says “in order to get along you must go along” And Paul cry’s out in his prayer that the Lord “establish their hearts” by not being conformed to this present evil world system. It’s the idea of walking worthy for the glory of Christ, not man. Paul wrote this to the church in Rome. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:2. In 1 John 2:15-17 we read this “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
In order to walk worthy, your heart needs to be established, it needs a daily helping from God. Remember, this isn't the process to becoming holy or some formula to achieve sinless perfection. Why? To everyone who is of the Elect, is seen by God, as holy and blameless. This is only made possible through the finished work found in the gospel. We see that truth in letter of Job “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job 1:1. Believers are to walk (live) in such a manner that we will not justifiably produce the reproach of others. As one writer said “Even if a charge would be made against us, that the charge could not be maintained.” Our position in Christ before God is blameless but Paul's prayer speaks of our daily walk and his desire for it to be blameless in holiness. So the purpose of Paul’s prayer is that they “Stand”, that they “Live” in the light of their holiness. And the motivation for doing this is the reminder in (v13b) “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all the saints.” This should be our motivation for “faithful living" This should be our prayer for one another each and every day to live faithful for Him and His glory. Instead of fearing His coming as so many will, our lives are to exemplify His return and we should stand with joy and rest knowing His return is imminent. Walking worthy as we await our King. This was Paul’s desire that they would excel more and more in their walk with Christ. Our pattern and purpose of prayer for one another shouldn't be any different than Paul’s. This is how we should be praying for one another! Sadly though, we tend to tear each other down more than lift each other up! This is where you, this were we, need to change.
So again I ask! Can you pray this prayer? Do you truly love the people that fill this sanctuary? Do you truly love one another enough to make time daily and intercede to a holy God on behalf of someone? Do you truly care more about the soul rather than trying to out spiritualize someone who is lesser than you? Do you care at all?
Can you pray this prayer!
Our Heavenly Father,
“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 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 Thess 3:11-13
I pray these things in Jesus Name……..AMEN!