Paul’s Missionary Prayer Request

2 Thessalonians 3:1


Here, in Paul’s closing words to the Thessalonians, in his second letter to them, he gives them a very specific prayer request. It is highly instructive for believers to give very careful consideration to the kind of prayer requests that are given to us in the New Testament epistles (see our literature item, New Testament Prayers). What did Paul tell us to pray for? Since these prayer requests are inspired by God, by perusing them we can gain great insight into the mind and heart and desire of our God for His people and for His program today.


Every believer can be involved in God’s program of missions. Paul writes these instructions not just to the leadership of the Thessalonica assembly but to all the believers, so that they might participate with him in the outworking of God’s program for God’s glory.

pray for us,

Prayer is coming to God in utter dependence upon Him, realizing and recognizing WHO HE IS in all the greatness of His Person. Paul asked these believers to come into God’s throne room on behalf of him and his co-workers (Silvanus, Timothy—see 1:1). John Walvoord wrote this: “Behind every victory for the Word of God there must be a victory in prayer. When calling on a certain college president years ago, I asked how things were going. His reply was, ‘We are going forward on our knees.’ That was the right answer. In the Lord’s work, progress made when we are not on our knees does not amount to much. It must be progress in prayer.”

that the word of the Lord

Missions is meaningless without a message. So often in our day missions has degenerated into nothing more than social action (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing medical assistance to the sick, offering aid to victims of disasters, etc.). These things have a place and we are not to be insensitive and impervious to the physical needs of humanity, but what good are all these things without the knowledge of the truth that leads to eternal life? William Booth, the first general of the Salvation Army, once said that the real objective of the Salvation Army was, not just the amelioration of social conditions, but first and foremost the bringing of men to repentance that their souls might be saved. He once said: “Take a man from the filth and squalor of the slums, exchange his rags for decent clothing, move him from the stifling stench of the city tenement to a neat little cottage in the pure air of the country, put him on his feet economically where he can make a decent living for himself and his family, and then let him die in his sins, unsaved, and be lost forever at last—really it is not worth while, and I, for one, would not attempt it.” (Cited by Harry Ironside, Except Ye Repent, pages 181-182). The MESSAGE is of utmost importance, and here Paul recognizes the urgency of THE WORD OF THE LORD going forth to those far and near.

may have free course,

The word “free” is in italics and is not in the original. Literally Paul was saying, “Pray for us that the Word of the Lord MAY RUN!” It is the common New Testament word for “run.” It is used of runners running in a race (1 Cor. 9:24). It is used of Peter and John running to the empty tomb (John 20:4). It is used of the father of the prodigal who ran to welcome back his repentant son (Luke 15:16). The Christian life is depicted as a race that the believer is to run (Heb. 12:1-2; Gal. 5:7; 1 Cor. 9:24-26; Phil. 2:16). Here it is used figuratively of the Word of the Lord running (that is, spreading rapidly, proceeding quickly). Often heralds who carried the king’s message would run to their destination so that the message could be delivered without delay (compare our word “courier” which means a messenger, but literally a runner). We cannot help but be reminded of Psalm 147:15—“He sendeth forth His commandment upon earth; His Word runneth very swiftly.”

and be glorified,

How can God’s Word be glorified? The verb “be glorified” is used most often of glorifying and magnifying God. There is only one other place in the New Testament where this verb is used of glorifying the Word of God: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). These Gentiles rejoiced that the gospel message was not just for the Jews, but was for all men everywhere, and they magnified God’s Word. God’s Word is glorified and magnified when men receive it gladly and believe its message. The result is that their lives are transformed. “The Word is ‘glorified’ when men see a demonstration of its transforming power in the lives of believers” (Hiebert). God’s Word has triumphed!

even as it is with you . . .

What Paul told them to pray for others had already happened to them. “Even as” denotes an exact parallel and implies that events in their own case offer a pattern of what they are to pray for elsewhere. God’s Word ran to them and came to them in great power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance (1 Thess. 1:5). They received the Word gladly (“with joy of the Holy Spirit”) even though they suffered greatly as a result (1 Thess. 1:6). And because of their welcome reception of the truth, the Word of the Lord sounded out and “ran” to many other parts of the world (1 Thess. 1:8). Their lives were transformed because these people had turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven with joyful and eager anticipation (1 Thess. 1:9-10). May we never forget how the Thessalonians received God’s Word: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (2 Thess. 2:13). May God and His Word be glorified, and may the things said of the Thessalonian believers be true also of the believers in your given locality.

The Middletown Bible Church
349 East Street
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 346-0907

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