Also available as MP3: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 – A Pauline Prayer Request
Paul asked every church he wrote to pray for him, except the Galatians, and it is easy to understand why. When you put others under the law, you bite and devour them (Gal.5:15), you don’t pray for them. But Paul knew the Thessalonians were a loving church (ITh.4:9), and so asked them to pray for “us” (IITh.3:1) himself and Silvanus and Timothy (1:1).
This shows it is okay to ask for prayer for yourself, especially since Paul says that you should pray for “all saints,” and you are one of the saints (Eph.6:18)! It is also okay to pray “in every thing” (Phil.4:6). But here’s the thing: Paul didn’t ask the saints to pray for him so he could have an easier life, he asked for their prayers so he could serve the Lord (Eph.6:18-20; Col.4:3). Even when he prayed for his thorn to be removed it was because he thought he could be stronger for the Lord, so the Lord had to explain otherwise (IICor.12:9). So while it is okay to pray for yourself and everything that concerns you, the more you mature in the Lord, the more you will be mostly concerned with serving the Lord and pray like Paul.
“The word of the Lord” (3:1) to Israel was a threat of judgment (Ezek.6:3), but today the word of the Lord is found in Acts 13:38,39 (cf.v.49). The Greek word for “free course” is always translated “run” elsewhere. Paul was asking them to pray the word would be able to run “free” of the hurdles he’d seen runners have to jump at the Isthmian games in Corinth, from whence he wrote this epistle. We should pray this too, and then make sure we are not one of the hurdles by hurting God’s testimony, refusing to help the work or help finance it, or criticizing it.
The word is “glorified” (3:1) when it is believed (Acts 13:48). The word didn’t have free course “with” the Thessalonians 3:1) when Paul established the church (Acts 17:1-9), but it did now that he was gone, and he was asking them to pray that it would now have free course with him as it was with them. Of course, Paul knew he’d be delivered “from unreasonable and wicked men,” knowing he couldn’t die till he’d finished his course, like John (Acts 13:24,25) and the two witnesses (Rev.11:7). You see, Paul also had a course and a testimony (Acts 20:24) and he knew he couldn’t die until he’d finished testifying by writing his epistles (IITim.4:6,7).
But if he knew he couldn’t die till then, why did he ask them to pray for his deliverance? He was asking them to pray according to God’s will. We see the same thing in his letter to the Corinthians, where he knew he’d be delivered, but asked the Corinthians to pray for it also (IICor.1:8-11).
These “unreasonable” (3:2) are unsaved Jews who don’t respond to God’s offer to “reason” with them (Isa.1:18). Paul also reasoned with Jews who didn’t believe (Acts 17:1-4l 18:1-6), but unsaved religious Gentiles were also a problem for him (Acts 19:29-34).
But we know Paul was also asking to be delivered from saved religious men when he adds, “for all men have not faith, but the Lord is faithful” (3:2,3).Since the word “faith” can mean faithful (Rom.3:1-3), Paul was comparing the Lord’s faithfulness to the faithlessness of believers, who can be just as “unreasonable and wicked” as unsaved men.
In declaring that God will be “faithful” to do what He says He will do, the thing that Paul said He would faithfully do was to “stablish” them (3:3). That word, like all words, has different meanings depending on the context. In 2:16,17 the hope of the pre-trib Rapture could “stablish” them, but we know that depended on their faithfulness or they wouldn’t have been “shaken” and “troubled” (2:2). The stablishing here is speaking about the stablishing where the Lord will stablish us “unblameble in holiness before God” (IThes.3:12,13) when He returns to heaven with us.
That return will be before the Tribulation, and that is how the Lord plans to “keep you from evil” (3:3), i.e., the evil of the Tribulation. We have no guarantee that we will be saved from any other evil. If you don’t understand this, you will charge God with unfaithfulness when wicked men harm you.