Praying with Wisdom
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 2.11-13
If you ever listen into a conversation, it can be striking how words are not carefully thought out or used. We often throw in extra words, phrases, and other things which we would just define as filler. Often our thoughts and desires can be quite simple and even empty. We can stare at ceilings and wonder how many dots are up there or something else quite simple like this (or at least I do). Our prayers can even end up lacking biblical wisdom and can simply focus on our most immediate felt need. This is not to say that there isn’t a time and place for such daydreaming or praying for a scrape. I would suggest if all of our lives were filled with filler words in our conversation and daydreaming and praying for the laundry list of pains and aches we have, we would be lacking what is essential.
Where do we find what is essential for our lives and for our prayers? We find what is essential in scripture. We find wise context for our conversations in the word of God. We are given patterns for our prayer throughout the New Testament, yet all too often, we are content to revert back to the simplistic, ‘Dear God, please help so and so to get better and also help great, great, great grandma to get out of the hospital.’ Again, it is not wrong to pray for healing, but in such instances, we are not even specifically praying that God would heal them. Instead, we are praying that they would get better, or get out of the hospital. No need to attribute such works to God. In addition, we neglect to acknowledge the nature of the fallen world: we must acknowledge the sin and death that pervades the world. Our illnesses and scrapes are evidence of a fallen humanity that will only be restored after the return of the Messiah. Let the sickness remind you more of our blessed hope than of the hoped for healing on this side of the second coming.
Now how do such thought relate to 1 Thessalonians 2.13? Here Paul reveals his desire for them, and he speaks with what we could call divine language. He doesn’t just say, ‘I really want to come see you guys sometimes, maybe it will work out.’ Instead, he says, ‘May our God direct our way to you.’ His mind and words have been so conformed to scripture and to the ways of God that he speaks in a way that is quite foreign to us. He knows that if he ever returns to Thessalonica, it will be a work of God and not anything of his own effort. Not only does he know this, he communicates his belief in the work of God in this area.
The second thing we see from Paul’s wish for the Thessalonians is how he desires their spiritual growth and he wants their love for one another to abound. When I think of my friends, and even of other churches, their spiritual condition isn’t always my first thought, though it is more of a concern of mine now: that the two other churches I spent time in would have a healthy pastorate and that the congregations would be growing in their specific areas of weakness. Perhaps this is easier as a pastor to have such a sentiment, but it should be a concern of every believer. When I run into other believers, it is sometimes striking to see how their church is affecting their lives for the positive. There is an excitement about the gospel and its work in a person’s life that is contagious and lovely. This is what we ought to long for in every congregation of God, but perhaps we’re so hung up on the negatives of different places that we struggle to desire their good.
In some ways what Paul does at the end of chapter 3 is reveal his prayer for the congregation: that by God’s work he could see them, that they would grow in their love for one another as a church, and that God would establish their hearts to the end: in other words, that they would be a loving church and endure to the end. What a beautiful desire! May we hone our thoughts, desires, and prayers according to Scriptures like these so that we are not left simply praying the laundry list of physical ailments, but that we would pray for such ailments in light of God’s redemption and our future salvation when Christ returns. May we grow in our love for one another and God establish our hearts in holiness until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who died, was raised, ascended into heaven and will return for his own. Amen.