Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)
Paul’s Prayer For Thessalonica
The prayers of the apostle Paul are some of the most sublime utterances of endearment in scripture. Paul had a deep love for the people of God and he often wrote telling them of his longing to be with them. He had not yet found occasion to be with the church in Thessalonica, attributing his delay to the hindrance of Satan. The church at Thessalonica was a beacon of spiritual joy to Macedonia, Achaia, and every place because they had turned from idols to serve the living and true God. Their faith was not hidden under a basket but shining like a brilliant ray of hope to the world. Paul’s earnest desire was to be with this kind of people – his kind of folk.
God had blessed the church in Thessalonica in the face of a perverted world. They had turned from the idols of the world and set themselves apart as holy people of God. Paul prayed for the faith of these saints to increase and make their love for one another and for all people grow and overflow. As a congregation of God’s people, the community of Thessalonica saw the example of Christ in the saints who called themselves the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. These brethren lived before a pagan world with the example of Christ. They were neighbors who shared the faith in their lives and their actions. When the word of God came to these brethren, they accepted it as the word of God and not as the word of men. Paul longed to hear of the faith of the Thessalonians.
Timothy had been sent to visit the church in Thessalonica, returning to Paul with the good news of their faith and love. Paul was excited. He longed to meet with the brethren and prayed for them. His desire for the Thessalonians was for their hearts to be made strong and for their lives to be examples of a blameless character and to be holy. The example of the church was well known and became a pattern to the church worldwide. This was unlike the first time Paul visited Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. The church had not been established yet and Paul spent three weeks preaching in the synagogue of the Jews. Some of the Jews were persuaded and a great multitude of the Greeks (including a few of the leading women), but many Jews did not believe. After a tumult caused by the Jews, Paul and Silas went away to Berea. Luke notes in his account of the story the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica. Now, as Paul is writing a letter to the church at Thessalonica, he is thrilled to see the power of the gospel in the city of Thessalonica.
Paul’s prayer for the church shows the power of God’s grace on a city that was at first non-receptive to the teachings of Christ. As Paul writes his letter, he prays for the faith of the church as it grows in a place where persecution is evident. Trying to be a Christian in Thessalonica was a struggle to maintain faith in Jesus Christ. The church was thriving though and Paul was thankful for their faithful example. He prays for them and exhorts them to continue to let their light shine in a dark world.
Pray is a powerful tool to recognize congregations thriving in the fellowship of the kingdom. Paul was thankful for those brethren he longed to meet and worship with. He prayed for them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Their example of a congregation in a dark world of idolatry was a refreshing story of grace and the power of what happens when devoted saints live for Christ. He wanted their love for one another to grow and abound in love. May the work we engage as a congregation be known as a beacon of hope and light in this dark world. Pray for the work of the Lord. The world needs more light.