One author wrote the following: “Some of you pray like a Concorde jet—smooth, sleek, high, and mighty. Your words reverberate in the clouds and send sonic booms throughout the heavens. If you pray like a Concorde, I salute you.
“If you don’t, I understand. Maybe you are like me, more a crop duster than a Concorde. You aren’t flashy, you fly low, you seem to cover the same ground a lot, and some mornings it’s tough to get the old engine cranked up. Most of us are like that. Most of our prayer lives could use a tune-up.”1
Prayer is vital to the growth, strength, and vigor of the Church. By faith and faithfulness to the Word, we can allow the Holy Spirit to tune up our prayer lives. And we need to do so because the Church needs prayer warriors.
We Pray Always for You
“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 1:11-12).
Up to this point in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church, the apostle had expressed thanksgiving to God for their growing faith and abounding love (1:3). He commended them for their perseverance and faith in the midst of their persecutions (1:4). He then reassured them of God’s righteous retribution and vengeance toward those who persecuted believers (1:5-9). In the last two verses of this chapter, the Apostle Paul reported his intercession in prayer for this faithful church. Prayer was Paul’s practical response to the suffering and tribulations that the Thessalonians were enduring.
The Thessalonians were “always” on Paul’s heart and mind. Thus he was “always” lifting them up in prayer. And not only Paul, as he wrote, “WE pray always for you.” The “we,” according to verse 1, was “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus.” All three of these men were prayer warriors.
As they faithfully prayed for this church, they made a threefold petition on their behalf. Paul’s first request, stated in verse 11, reflects back to verse 5 of this chapter: “that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.” Paul’s prayer was that they would grow and remain faithful through their suffering and live up to their high calling as subjects of Christ’s heavenly kingdom. Like the Thessalonians of old, every believer today is given the privilege “not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).
Paul’s second supplication was for God to “fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness” through them. This prayer was that the Church would be willing and available vessels through whom God could always work and display His goodness. “Good pleasure” reminds us of Philippians 2:13: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” And the work that Paul prayed God would do through them was that of faith, empowered by the Spirit, so that their service would be “the work of faith with power.”
Finally, Paul told the Thessalonians that he prayed all of this and wanted all of this for them was so that the Lord Jesus Christ would be honored, exalted, and lifted up. In the end, our lives and service are all about His glory, in order “That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him.”
What do we learn from this prayer warrior example of Paul, Silas, and Timothy? First, we see from 2 Thessalonians 1:11 that prayer warriors “pray always.” Likewise, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 teaches us to “Pray without ceasing,” and Ephesians 6:18 exhorts us to be “Praying always with all prayer and supplication….”
Setting aside time to spend with God in prayer is important. But to “pray always” means that our prayer life is to be a way of living, a habit of life, something that we don’t stop doing. It’s a deep level of communication that continues in your heart and thoughts; it is an unceasing communion with the living God. Prayer is to be a total way of life, an open and constant communication with God. It is about relating the experiences of life to Him and centering our minds on our personal relationship with Him. In one sense, prayer is the simplest thing in the world; it’s just a conversation with God. Yet it is also one the deepest and most profound experiences of our lives. Prayer puts us in the closest possible connection with the true and living God.
Satan loves it when people think of prayer as a pointless exercise, and he hates it when God’s people discover that prayer is direct, unobstructed access to the One Who formed the earth, hurled the stars through space, and spoke all things into being. As the Lord told Israel in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
Second, we learn from 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 that prayer warriors pray specifically. Paul’s prayers were pointed and direct. They were not vague, generic, or general. They were detailed and definite.
The heart of a prayer warrior is selfless and close to that of God. Thus, Paul’s prayers were selflessly focused on the spiritual needs of others, and he prayed for use prayer as a means of bringing His will about in this world. It is not that God can’t work without our prayers, but that He has established prayer as part of His plan for accomplishing His will in this world. And prayer is about aligning ourselves with and participating in the purposes of God. Prayer is an essential link to God’s active involvement in the world today. Thus, Paul prayed for God to “fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power” in and through the Church.
Pray for Us
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” (2 Thes. 3:1).
The story is told about a certain man of prayer who had a dream about “an army coming from a great center of light, bringing light with it wherever it moved. It was arrayed against dense darkness, but as the army advanced the darkness gave way before it. Insignificant in size compared with the force against which it turned, it conquered wherever it moved. ‘Invincible’ seemed written all over this little host. As the captivated man looked again, he saw that this army was advancing on its knees.”2
If the church is to be a strong witness and bright light in this world and advance the cause of Christ, we must find our power through God on our knees in prayer. Evangelist D. L. Moody (1837-1899) once said, “Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.”3
Paul prayed for the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, and then in chapter 3, verse 1, he asked this small army of saints to “pray for us.” The “us” is Paul, Silas, and Timothy. And again, Paul had a very specific prayer request. Prayer not only strengthens our relationship with God, but praying for and with other believers also strengthens the bonds that exist between us.
Praying for one another is an expression of love. Prayer draws you closer to the ones for whom you are praying. And prayer is a responsibility between family in Christ. Paul asked his “brethren” in Christ to “pray for us.” United together as family in Christ, and as a family has mutual concern and care for one another, Paul asked this local church to pray for his team of three.
Paul needed the prayers of God’s people. Paul had many strengths and was gifted in many areas, but he also had weaknesses, struggles, and needs. But prayer warriors are people who choose to fight personal and spiritual battles through prayer instead of in their own strength.
Paul depended on the prayers of God’s people and was deeply conscious of his need of the power of God which was gained through the prayers of his friends. Paul told the Corinthians that they would be “helping together by prayer for us” (2 Cor. 1:11). When we pray for each other, we help each other. And Paul knew that God would work in response to the requests and prayers of His people. This is why he asked them to “pray for us.”
Paul humbly asked for this local church to pray for him. And as we follow Paul as he followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), this teaches us that it is good and right for us to ask fellow believers to pray for us when we have a need. All of us are dependent on prayer.
Paul’s request for prayer in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 had two specific points. First, “that the Word of the Lord may have free course.” In joining his heart with God’s, Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray that God’s Word would be made known and would touch many hearts and lives.
“May have free course” is translated from the Greek word that means run. Paul asked for prayer that, as they made the Word of the Lord known, it would run freely from place to place, sweeping powerfully through people’s hearts, going as far and wide as it could go (Psa. 147:15). And if ever there was a time in the history of the world when the Word of God could spread rapidly, it’s right now. Through television, the internet, email, and social media, and using DVDs, podcasts, and MP3s, we as prayer warriors can and should pray this prayer for the Word rightly divided.
This leads to the second point of Paul’s prayer request in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “that the Word of the Lord may…be glorified, even as it is with you.” Paul prayed that the Word would be honored by those who heard it. The way the Word of the Lord is glorified and honored is for it to be received, accepted, and believed. Thus Paul prayed that, as the Word was made known, it would run swiftly, and as it ran, it would be glorified as it was believed.
Paul wanted the Word to run and win, to win souls for Christ. He asked for prayer for it to run and triumph over hearts and lead to changed lives through Christ. And in grace and kindness, he told the Thessalonians that, everywhere the Word went, he wanted the response to be “even as it is with you,” because they had honored the Word by receiving it, believing it, and allowing it to transform their lives.
A Prayer Warrior Example
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12).
Among all the coworkers of Paul, Epaphras holds the unique distinction of being the only one whom Paul explicitly recognized for his prayer ministry. He was a prayer warrior.
Epaphras “is one of you,” Paul wrote, that he was a Colossian believer in Christ. From Colossians 1:5-7, we learn that it was by Epaphras that they had heard the gospel, had believed, and were saved. Paul wrote Colossians from prison in Rome, and Epaphras was in Rome with him. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, who was a Colossian believer, we further learn that Epaphras was in prison with Paul in Rome: “There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus” (Phile. 1:23). Thus, Paul bore witness to the Colossians that Epaphras was “always laboring fervently for you in prayers.”
A few verses earlier in Colossians 4, Paul instructed the Colossians to “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (4:2). Epaphras was a living example of that instruction. He devoted himself to prayer and faithfully prayed for the Colossian church.
It’s been said that “Epaphras prayed well because he cared well.”4 After leading them to Christ and founding their church, Epaphras had a deep care for the spiritual well-being of the Colossians (4:13). This led him to pray “always” for them.
The words “laboring fervently” show the heart and earnestness he put into his prayers. The words “laboring fervently” picture the intensity, effort, and strength put in by a wrestler as he tries to pin his opponent. “Laboring fervently” is translated from the Greek word agonizomai. This same word is translated as “Fight” in 1 Timothy 6:12 where Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith.” Here this same Greek word describes a soldier fighting strenuously.
All of this gives us a picture of how Epaphras prayed. He strained, struggled, strove, and fought, praying with spiritual intensity. This reminds us that prayer is a battle, a battle against unseen forces. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
“A. W. Tozer [1897-1963] portrayed a praying believer as a constant threat to the stability of Satan’s government, writing that ‘The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God.’ Since prayer is detrimental to the evil one’s purposes, Satan and his minions do their utmost to interfere when we pray, especially opposing us when we try to take time for prayer, because the enemy knows better than most Christians the power of persistent prayer!”5
Prayer warriors are needed in the spiritual battle. In that battle, God would have us “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph. 6:18).
Epaphras was aware of the dangers that threatened the Colossians at all times in the spiritual battle, and he prayed accordingly. Their welfare was his predominant concern, and he prayed for them as a whole and individually.
“A story is told about an old pastor who every Saturday afternoon could be seen leaving his study and entering the church building by the back door, and about sundown he would be seen going home. Someone’s curiosity was aroused enough to follow one day and watch through a window. It was in the days when the family pew was an institution of the church. The old pastor was seen to kneel at each pew and pray for every member of the family that was to occupy it [on Sunday]. He called each member by name as he poured out his heart to God for his flock. His was a ministry of power and his people reflected the grace of God….”6
The need is great in the church today for people like this, for prayer warriors like Epaphras, whose passionate and compassionate prayers are focused on the physical and spiritual needs of believers.
And like Epaphras we should labor fervently in prayer for God’s people to “stand perfect [mature] and complete in all the will of God.” Understanding and believing the message of grace committed to Paul for this current dispensation of grace is what establishes us in the faith and enables us to stand and mature in all the will of God (cf. Col. 1:9; 2:7). And it’s a labor of love to pray for others to see the truth of God’s Word rightly divided.
Oswald Chambers once said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”7 May each of us get involved in this greater work as prayer warriors.