Summary: "Mutual Prayer for Difficult Times" is an exposition of 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5. There is a powerful dynamic that works when pastor and people pray for one another, when saints pray for one another.
MUTUAL PRAYER FOR DIFFICULT TIMES
In this brief letter to the young church at Thessalonica, Paul teaches about the last days or end times. There was confusion about the second coming of Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul discusses the coming of the Lord to rapture the saints. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Paul discusses the Day of the Lord that will consummate history. But confusion apparently remained. So Paul wrote this second letter to the church. In chapter 1, Paul again discusses the coming of the Lord. In chapter 2, Paul discusses the man of lawless who will oppose Christ. In chapter 3, Paul exhorts the church to live in light of the imminent return of Christ.
This is the pattern when the Second Coming is addressed. There is explanation and then exhortation. The New Testament is emphatic that Jesus is coming again. The Lord will return to the earth physically and majestically and unexpectedly. But Christ’s imminent return is not an excuse to disconnect from the real world or live irresponsibly. We are to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This letter begins with the reality of the last days. It ends with the responsibility of the saints as we live in the last days. Between these two sections there is the resource the church can access until Jesus returns. It is the privilege and power of prayer. Paul was facing difficulties in Corinth. And the saints were facing difficulties in Thessalonica. But Paul knew a way they could help one another through their difficult times. He says, “You pray for me. And I will pray for you.” There is a dynamic power that works when pastor and people pray for one another, when the saints pray for one another. But it can only be accessed when our focus is on the Lord. Paul and the Thessalonians prayed for one another. But the primary concern of their mutual prayers was not themselves. It was about Lord, who is mentioned four times in these five verses. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 teaches three spiritual priorities that should consume our prayers for one another.
I. THE WORD OF THE LORD
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” Chapter 2 of this letter ends with Paul’s prayer for the church at Thessalonica. Chapter 3 begins with a prayer request Paul makes to the church. Verse 1 says, “Finally, brothers, pray for us.” This request is not unique. Paul frequently solicited the prayers of the saints. 1 Thessalonians 5:25 also reads: “Brothers, pray for us.” Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. The Thessalonians were brand new Christians. Yet Paul did not think they were too little pray for him. And he did not think he was too big to ask for their prayers. Paul humbly requested, “Brothers, pray for us.” This request is in a grammatical emphasis that denotes continual action. He solicited their ongoing prayers. Paul’s example reminds us that we never reach a place where we do not need others to pray for us.
This prayer request also tells us that the Thessalonians needed to pray. The saints at Thessalonica were facing difficulties for which Paul prayed the Lord would comfort and establish them. But Paul did not consider the difficulties these young Christians faced so great that he should not ask them to pray for him. They needed to pray as much as they needed to be prayed for. This is the irony of prayer. The heavy load you carry is often lifted as you take on the burdens of others. Job 42:10a says, “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.” Job’s friends were not good friends. As he suffered, they showed up to question and condemn him, rather than comforting him. Yet he prayed for them. And God intervened for Job when he prayed for his friends. God will also restore some things for you when you pray for your friends. Paul understood the benefits of mutual prayer. So he asked the saints to pray for him and his missionary team. Specifically, Paul makes two prayer requests concerning the word of the Lord.
A. PRAY FOR THE OPPORTUNITY THAT IS BEFORE US.
Verse 1 says, “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.” This request was not so much for Paul and Silvanus and Timothy as it was for the word of the Lord. It is an affirmation of the primacy of the word of God. No one in the church is indispensible. But the word of God is. All that the church is and does is to be rooted and grounded in the word of God. WARREN WIERSBE comments: “Too much Christian work these days is accomplished by human plans and promotion, and not by the word of God. We trust our programs and do not publish the word of God.” May this not be true of us. May the Lord give us a holy passion and preoccupation with the word of God. May we preach it, teach it, believe it, obey it, share it, defend it, and pass it on to the next generation. This requires prayer. Pray and the word of God are inextricably tied together. Both must be alive and well for the church to be healthy. So Paul asks the church to pray for the ministry of the word.