Our passage for study consists of Paul's prayer for the Thessalonian Christians.
v3-4. Having greeted the Thessalonian believers, Paul tells them how he is compelled, by their ever-increasing faith and love, to give thanks to God for them. Although it is unusual for the founder of a church to boast of his flock, Paul is happy to do so whenever he gets a chance. In the face of great odds they have remained steadfast in their faith. The word "faith" could refer to human "faithfulness", but here it most likely means "reliance" in the faithfulness of God. Their firm faith in God is the source of their "perseverance" (steadfastness). His readers may look, as he does, to the day of Christ's return, yet in the present they must survive in the face of trouble. In their own power they will not easily stand, but God can see them through to the end.
v5-10. Before actually praying for the Thessalonian believers Paul encourages them by explaining something about "the righteous judgment of God." Their present troubles should remind them that the day of judgment is close at hand when the wicked will be punished and the righteous blessed. This will take place when believers gather in heaven for Christ's enthronement. On that day, those who have rejected the gospel will face eternal loss, while those who have believed in Jesus, and this includes the Thessalonians, will share in his eternal glory.
v11. Paul now specifically prays for the Thessalonians; "May God help you to be the person you are in Christ by enabling you to accomplish every good resolve and work of faith." There are three points to the prayer:
i] May God "make you worthy of his calling", ie. "may God shape you into the person you are in Christ." Here Paul is praying for the renewing work of the Spirit to mould that state of holiness in their lives which they already possess through their faith in Jesus.
ii] May God "fulfill every good purpose of yours." This is a request for God to empower them to bring to completion their resolve for goodness, their resolve to act in a godly way.
iii] May God fulfill "every act prompted by your faith." The sense of Paul's prayer is "may God bring to completion every activity which is prompted by your faith in Jesus."
v12. Paul now reveals the purpose of these three prayer points. He prays for the Thessalonians so that "the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified." For the ancients, the "name" frames a person's being, their character. Paul prays this prayer so that the person of Jesus might be glorified. As Jesus is honored in the lives of his people, so are believers honored in Christ. All this is through the "grace" of God, his free favor and unmerited kindness toward us. This favor, this kindness, flows from both the Father and the Son.
Prayer is a rather mysterious element in the Christian life, and this because we are not quite sure what to ask for, nor what answer we should expect. We often resort to simplistic formulas like: God loves us and is sovereign and so therefore he will care for us when we ask anything of him. That's why we end up with "Father Christmas" type prayers - health, wealth and happiness. Of course, the mystery is intensified when we find no rationale in the seeming "yes, no, not yet" answers.
The way out of this humanist fog is to understand that God acts on his own intentions, not ours. Rather than being subjective thinkers (what I need) and inevitably existentialist (what I need now), we should be objective thinkers. As Paul puts it, we need to adopt "the mind of Christ" and so come to understand God's intentions - we need to think Christianly.
When it comes to God's intentions, verses 11 and 12 of our passage for study outline some divine intentions that are definitely worthy of our prayers. The Father intends glory for the Son and in that glory we bask. Here, in this age, the Son is glorified in the life of his renewed people. So for this reason, Paul prays that his readers might be made worthy of their standing in Christ, enabled toward goodness and a faith which is realized in deeds.
May it be so for us such that Jesus is glorified in us.
1. Consider the three prayer points found in v11, discuss and apply.
2. How does a "give glory to Christ" perspective affect us in the here and now?