Throughout 2 Thessalonians Paul emphasizes praying. He shares with the church, in several sections, the content of his prayers for them (1:3,4; 1:11, 12; 3:5; 3:16). The prayer sections not only reveal Paul’s innermost thoughts, but also urge the Thessalonians to live out Paul’s prayer. It is a powerful means of encouragement toward faithful living.
In the beginning of this section, though, we are offered a different aspect of prayer. Instead of Paul laying out his prayers, he asks the Thessalonians to pray for him. Specifically in two areas:
1. The word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified. Ever the missionary, Paul’s first request was for God’s word to be spread. Paul understood the power of the message and wanted all to hear it. Ideally, Paul wanted more than just the hearing of the word. He desired that it would be glorified. The word is glorified when those who hear it accept its truth, and obey its message (Acts 13:48).
2. That Paul and his companions be delivered from perverse and evil men. I do not think it is an accident that Paul puts this second in his prayer request. Paul, like all people, did not like being persecuted. However, Paul makes it clear in his writings and actions that the spreading of the gospel is more important than his personal comfort. If persecution was required for the gospel to spread, then Paul would endure it. However, he asked for prayer that it not be required.
Paul states the source of the persecution is faithless men (v. 3). However, he makes it clear that their faithlessness, does not negate Jesus’ (the Lord) faithfulness. We pray because we know the Lord is faithful (3:4). He is able to both strengthen us during our persecutions and protect us from Satan. Persecution does not mean Jesus is not faithful. He is still working on our behalf!
As Paul closes out this section he tells the Thessalonians that he is confident that they will continue following his commands (which are the commands of the Lord, see 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Then, he closes with prayer that God would aid their hearts in love and perseverance.
As we apply this section two ideas come to mind:
1. The attitude of the apostle Paul is much needed to do. Although, we pray that we do not have to face persecution, the threat of persecution, or shame, should not keep us from seeing the word spread rapidly. Too often we allow the fear of rejection, or being considered weird, or judgmental to keep us from teaching the gospel to others.
2. It should remind us that when we face persecutions that Jesus is still faithful. He is still limiting Satan’s abilities and helping us endure whatever it is we face. We can have confidence that we can make it through any trials that befall us because Jesus is with us.