2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (ESV)
Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
You would think that Paul, being the man of God that he was, would not need others to pray for him. Yet, here he is asking for the Thessalonians to do just that. For some reason, God—through Paul—has asked the church to pray for the spreading of the Gospel. I do not fully understand why, but perhaps because when we pray for others, or for the church, and for the spreading of the Gospel we stop focusing on ourselves for a time. Also, perhaps as we pray for the church and for the spreading of the Gospel, people may become motivated to take the Gospel to others. Yet Paul was also asking that they pray for his protection from wicked and evil men.
Paul knew that his ultimate destination was imprisonment, probably death, as the Lord had revealed to him in the very beginning of his Christian life how much he must suffer for the sake of the Gospel. So what good would it do for this group of Christians to pray for his safety? It was likely he wanted to ensure that he was protected until the timing of God and his imprisonment came to the proper season.
In our own lives, we should pray for others and for the church, because we do not know the plans of the Lord, but He has done many things over the millennia due to the prayers of the saints.
In another place, the Scriptures tell us that we do not have, because we do not ask. And when we do ask, we ask out of selfish motives. So when we pray, we need to be certain that we are asking for the benefit of others. We live in a strange and fallen world, and there are many distractions, and pits in which to fall. We should pray that those we know be healthy, and blessed, and that they know the Lord and submit to Him.
Is it wrong to pray for ourselves? No, but our own needs are–or at least should be–secondary to the needs of others.
So pray for the Church. Pray for the spreading of the Gospel. Pray that others be blessed, and know the presence of God in their lives. Then pray for your own needs.
May God bring blessing to His Church, may He bring His message to more people through us, and may He bless you all this day.
by Virgil Stripes