What we pray for reveals what we value. In 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 we get a little insight into some of Paul’s prayer time for the believers he had to leave behind in Thessalonica. Let’s do a quick survey of the things Paul and his team were praying for and see what we can learn from what it was they were praying for…
- Paul and his team gave thanks for the Thessalonians response to the Gospel (1:2-3)
- Prayed that God might enable his team to help the Thessalonians to grow up in their faith through good teaching and leadership (3:10)
- Prayed that God would make a way through the devil’s hindering (2:18) so that they could be re-united with the Thessalonians again for their mutual encouragement (3:11)
- Prayed that the Thessalonians love would abound towards one another in the church & also about for all people (3:12)
- Prayed that the Thessalonians might be blameless on the day of Jesus’ second coming (3:13)
Prayed that they might become more and more like God (sanctified) and that they be kept blameless until the day Jesus returns (5:23-24)
In summary, incidentally through this letter we discover some of the things that really mattered to the apostle Paul when he prayed for others.
- He gave thanks to God!
- He prayed for enabling power to accomplish that which God had called him to do.
- He prayed for God’s breakthrough where things felt stuck/hindered
- He prayed for these believers to be like God, to be abounding in love
- He prayed that God would keep them safe through trials to the very end of the age.
Think about your prayers for a moment.
What things are your prayers typically characterised by if you were to do an audit?
How could you pray through some of these things that were the apostle’s prayer focus in your life and over the lives of others?
Paul and his team eventually send Timothy to Thessalonica to establish and exhort the Thessalonians in their faith in Jesus so that ‘no one would be moved by these afflictions’. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3)
On his return to Paul in Athens Timothy brought back a good report of the Thessalonians faith, love and also their warm friendship and longing to meet again (1 Thessalonians 3:6).
This report comforted Paul and his team and provoked them to thanksgiving and more fervent prayer (night & day) for the Thessalonians that their faith might be firmly established.
What can we learn from this?
The Gospel forms new relationships that didn’t previously exist (1 Peter 2:10)!
Paul is worried, eager to hear news, wanted to come visit, was hindered, prayed, sent Timothy, then was relieved and prayed day and night – all for a group of people he didn’t know prior to their salvation and whom he only spent a month with. But in that time God joined their hearts and true spiritual friendship formed so that they really cared for each other.
God established a heart level partnership between Paul’s team and this church, these believers so that the church longed to see Paul and team again and they were eager to see them and hear from them and wanted to see them built up and encouraged in their faith.
God does this at an individual level when we get joined to individuals in our church who come alongside us or whom God uses us to come alongside to establish and encourage them in their faith.
God does this at a church level when we as a church have people that speak into the life of the church, pray for and care for a church that is not theirs but is a church community of faith that they care for and love.
Over the years, as Oasis, we have had many people like that who have prayed for, loved and cared for Oasis Church even though they have been from somewhere else and have only visited or been with us for a short time – God has joined them to us in partnership & prayer…
We thank God for every Frontier Year Project person who’s ever invested in the life of our church, we thank God for Craig & Shannon Botha and their investment in our church, for Ray & Sue Lowe who love Oasis, for Lois who has advocated for us for so many years and prayed continuously, for Gerry & Donna too for their love and generosity & the whole of Centre Street Church for their partnership, for Common Ground Church & GodFirst Rosebank for their exceeding generosity and the many other Advance churches that have partnered with Oasis Church, for local churches who have supported and prayed for Oasis, for the Waldron family who made us their home and carry us in their hearts…………. I know I have missed out on many but the point is made.
We have been joined together with others in partnership and prayer as a local church, it’s what we see in the New Testament and its been our experience.
May we partner with others! As individuals, may God use us to exhort and establish and encourage others in the faith, may God join our hearts in prayer and partnership for their growth and benefit, and may God keep using us more and more as a local church to plant and strengthen other local churches all over South Africa!
It’s been said that the more you learn the more you know how little you know! Just this week if you might have been among those who were the first people ever to see close-up photo’s of the dwarf planet Pluto with the incredible photo’s being sent back by the New Horizons space probe across 3+billion miles of space. We know, so little of so much…
Yet in our lives I/we often act as though we have a solid grasp on what’s happening and or what should be happening in any given situation. Sometimes when I hear myself praying, it’s even as if I’ve slipped into ‘informing God mode’ telling my Father what He needs to know and needs to do… Have you ever slipped into that mode?
On the Emmaus Road (Luke 24), at one point Jesus comes alongside the two disciples who have just left Jerusalem after 3 tumultuous days with Jesus’ arrest, trial, abuse, death on the cross, being buried and then on the 3rd day an empty tomb with stories of angelic encounters…
The two men are talking about all these things and Jesus asks them what they’re talking about to which Cleopas replies; “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
What irony! Cleopas is amazed, thinking he knows what has been happening, he is amazed at how little Jesus Himself seemingly knows. Without knowing it he is in ‘informing God mode’ and yet they are the ones who are about to have their eyes, their minds & their hearts opened to what is really true and real. God is about to give them some perspective that is going to cause their hearts to burn with passion within them!
The contrast between God’s omniscience and our tiny grasp on reality is massive. There is much in life which we don’t understand, much that we feel is out of our grasp or out of our control and yet we are in an eternal love relationship with Him who knows all things and works all things according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:11) and importantly knows us intimately, formed us in our mother’s wombs and knows every step of ours and even knows every thought (Psalm 139)…
I believe that our Father loves to hear what’s in our hearts, what’s on our minds and that we can tell Him anything we want, but let’s remember that in one sense we can’t tell Him anything and we definitely don’t need to remind Him of anything.
Prayer is not for God but for us, prayer doesn’t change God’s perspective but rather changes ours as we come into our heavenly Father’s presence.
Is there something you’re struggling with, perplexed by?
Take it to Father in prayer, remembering that He knows it already. He doesn’t need a PA telling Him, reminding Him what to do today, but He wants to hear from your heart, He wants you to express yourself to Him and He wants to pour His love out into your heart, to cause your heart to burn within you, He wants to open your eyes, your mind and your heart so that you see Him more clearly, love and worship Him more passionately and so that you’ll be comforted by knowing who He is regardless of what circumstances you face.
“Father, you know everything in my heart today, you know my hopes, dreams, fears & questions, you know what I need and everything that those I serve need, today I still myself, quieten myself and resolve to simply know that you are God!” Amen.
I loved this parable from a few weeks ago!
Just an explanation of the pictures, Alexandra my daughter (7yrs) draws during family devotions at breakfast, she draws “what she sees in her head” – love it. Here she has drawn the widow and the judge and then herself and God who chose her!
Why is this parable recorded in Scripture?
Luke tells us why in verse 1… This parable is in Scripture so that we would always pray and not loose heart in our praying. Why is this necessary, well it’s because we do loose heart in our praying (haven’t you?), because from our perspective, when God’s answer is seemingly delayed we tend to unravel…
We can identify with the widow, who has a need and she needs to persist to get an answer. Sometimes, actually oftentimes when we are praying there appears to be no answer. We can learn from this widow and her example to persist in our prayer and not give up.
What questions does it address, ask or answer?
1) Unanswered prayer or delays in answered prayer.
God always answers our prayers, He just doesn’t always give us the answer we are looking for or in the time we would like, but He does answer our prayers.
One of my greatest lessons in life came through unanswered prayer…
We had left everything, sold everything to follow God’s call to come and lead Oasis Church in Amanzimtoti. One of the things we needed was for me to sell my shares in a private company to help us buy a home in Amanzimtoti. I concluded a deal to sell my shares and we moved, bought a home knowing that the money for the house would only be due on transfer of the property and so we had some time before the money from the sale of my shares would be needed.
But then the purchaser didn’t pay! In fact he didn’t pay ever in the end. We were stuck having bought a house and not able to afford a bond at the full purchase price and nothing seemed to be happening, my prayers were dominated not with prayer for the church but wrestling with God over this delay, disappointment and very real financial problem that presented itself and seemed not to be resolving itself.
Eventually on a prayer walk about 7 months later I felt God speak to me about my heart in the whole issue, God told me to forgive the man who had reneged on the deal. It was at that time that God taught me that it is possible to be right but not Christlike, but that is not being right at all! So I repented and within a short time someone else offered to buy my shares and the problem was resolved.
It’s been said that God always answers our prayers either with; yes, no or not now. Why are my prayers unanswered? This is a common question. Luke makes Jesus’ purpose clear in prefacing the parable with; “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
God wants us to persist like this widow did, even in the face of seemingly unanswered prayer or delay. When we read this parable and we hear what the unrighteous judge says, we need to then hear Jesus’ words spoken to encourage us
And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
God will never be rightly charged for forgetfulness or not paying attention or not caring about us or not loving us – His children. We need to remember these things when there appears to be delay or when what we prayed for did not happen.
We pray to the Father who loves us, we are taught in this parable that God is attentive to the cries of His chosen ones (“His elect”), He does not delay long over them. The question is not whether God is faithful to us, mindful of us or listening, the real question in this parable is whether we will continue to trust God even when there are delays or when the answers to our prayers are not what we have asked for or thought was best. Will we trust God then? That’s the real question.
We put God on trial but in reality we are the ones on trial not God. Which leads to the next question/issue raised by this parable…
2) The parable ends with a question focused on us…Will God find faith on the earth?
The question Jesus poses to each one of us is; “Will we persist in our faith, in our prayers like she did in her requests?” We know God will find faith on the earth, the question is whether it will be our faith?
What mystery does this text speak to?
The mystery of election.
In making His point, Jesus contrasts two things:
1) God and the unrighteous judge
2) The elect of God and the widow
We who have believed in Jesus are incredibly valuable to God. We are “His elect” (ESV) “His chosen one’s” (NIV). Jesus is making a similar argument to the one found in Matthew 6:25-34 where we are told not to worry because if God our Father cares for the lilies of the field, the grass and the birds HOW MUCH MORE will our Father not care for us?
Here in this parable, Jesus is making the same type of argument, God chose us, we are very valuable to Him, she was unloved and with little value and yet she was heard, HOW MUCH MORE will we who are so valuable to God be heard by God!
In our day, many believers wrestle with the doctrine of election, it is full if mystery and an offence to the modern mind in a number of ways.
However, it was not some topic to avoid for Jesus, but rather a truth that was meant to encourage the disciples.
May we be like this widow who persisted in her requests to an unrighteous judge who saw no value in her, being encouraged knowing that we come not to some unrighteous judge but to our Heavenly Father who loves us and who chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) because He loved us (Ephesians 1:5).
May we like her therefore not give up but continue to trust God, believing even when we can’t see the evidence of His love and continual care for us, may we believe that He knows what is best for us and often it is not what we think is best for us, may we trust Him and His purposes for our lives.