What Should The Saints Be Praying For In These Last Days?
"It is a great concern to be well instructed what to pray for and without divine instruction we know not what to pray for, as without divine assistance we shall not pray in such a manner as we ought..." - Matthew Henry
"That the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified; this is the end we should aim at in everything we do and desire, that God and Christ in all things may be glorified. Our own happiness and that of others should be subordinate to this ultimate end."
- Matthew Henry
"Let the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ be the one great aim above all other motives."
- Pulpit Commentary - New Testament
In 2 Thessalonians 1, the Apostle Paul addressed a very important subject - the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. He related that, in preparation for this great event, the saints' faith would "grow exceedingly" and their love "toward each other abound" (2 Thessalonians 1:3). They would exemplify great patience and faith in all their "persecutions and tribulations" that they would be called upon to endure. On the other hand, he tells us that the heathen - those who "know not God, and obey not His Gospel" (2 Thessalonians 1:8) - would "trouble" the saints more and more as the time of this great event approaches. There would be increased persecutions and tribulations - severe revilings...cruel mockings... a disturbance in the possession of their estate or belongings...as well as imprisonments and bonds.
The blessed consolation for the "troubled" saints is the fact that Jesus will come - be "revealed from heaven with His mighty angels" (2 Thessalonians 1:7). When He does, He will be "glorified in His saints" and "admired in all them that believe" (2 Thessalonians 1:10).
The picture for the wicked is not so positive. In fact, it is very grim and frightening for Jesus will come "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:8). This is what they have to look forward to - "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
What an awesome yet catastrophic event this will be!
After explaining the lineup of events to come, Paul does something worth noting. He moves into a prayer - a constant, fervent prayer - that he feels compelled to pray - considering the circumstances.
What kind of prayer is it? Is it one like we hear today - asking for the wealth of the sinner to fall into the hands of the righteous? Is it one asking God to advance His people in this world - giving them one promotion after another so that they could build "bigger barns"? Is it one where he asks the Lord to enable His Church to be able to Christianize the entertainment fields and take back the "arts"?
No, in light of the coming of the Lord Jesus to bring swift and fiery judgment on an ungodly world, this is the kind of prayer that emanated from Paul's heart for the church - "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill 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 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
This was Paul's' earnest and constant prayer for the saints in Thessalonica. He wasn't asking God to give them "bigger" and "better." His thoughts were not on the temporal but on the eternal. These saints were facing horrible persecutions and tribulations for their faith. They didn't need a "Cadillac" or a six figure income. They weren't much interested in a promotion on the job, a bigger house, or the luxuries of this life. Their main concern was simply surviving and enduring to the end so that they could be counted among the saved.
First and foremost, the Apostle prayed that they would make it to heaven. They were headed for glory, and he wanted to make sure that they made it there by living "worthy of their calling" - by walking on "higher ground" above this world and its lusts and pleasures and by living in obedience to the Lord and His Word. They were called to fellowship with Him in holiness, liberty, peace, glory, virtue, and eternal life. His image was impressed on them. They ware to mirror forth His glory. Paul prayed for the necessary preparations to be made in anticipation of their future glorification.
He then prayed for the perfection and completion of every good work of grace that God began in them by His goodness and eternal kindness - that He would fill them with all the good which was pleasing to Him. Also, he prayed that God would mightily fulfill in them a faith which was active, living, energetic, and productive of good works.
His last prayer - but certainly not the least - was a prayer for the glorification of the saints which encompassed their holiness of living.. victory over the world and sin...and their steadfast loyalty to Jesus unto the end. This was the ultimate object of the Apostle's prayer - to see the saints of God promoting His cause and reflecting His glory by displaying the graces of His Spirit through a life that was holy and in conformity to His likeness and image.
The People's New Testament explained it in this way - "Holy lives glorify the Lord."
Notice that Paul's prayer - in lieu of the soon return of Jesus to this earth - made no mention of the prosperity of the saints or their enjoyment of everyday life. His prayer strictly concerned the eternal matters rather than the carnal, fleshly, and worldly ones which we so often hear about in our present-day supplications.
We need to ask ourselves some very pointed questions - In light of the glorious return of Jesus, what do we find Paul doing? What are most Preachers doing today? What are you doing?
This passage of Scripture demonstrated clearly that Paul was praying "always" for the saints at this crucial time. The soon return of Jesus fueled and empowered prayer in his heart.
However, like the Apostle, has the truth of the soon return of Jesus to be admired in His saints and to bring fiery judgment on the ungodly impacted and effected the way you pray? In what way? Or perhaps we should ask - why not?
Has the subject of the soon return of Jesus empowered your prayer life in any way? Has it fueled you to pray more than ever for your brothers and sisters in Christ...your family...your fellow ministers...or those who still do not know or obey God?
Or perhaps you are feeling rather rebuked by this message because you haven't given much thought lately to the glorious return of Jesus. You are so caught up with this world and its pleasures that you do not have time to consider such "trivial" matters!!!
Perhaps you have joined the ranks of Preachers and Teachers who have swayed you to "set up camp" in this world and "claim" by faith all the goods you can before ever thinking of leaving it. To some, the soon return of Jesus makes them nervous because they have not yet reached their "American Dream" and certainly this event would interrupt their wild pursuit of such a thing.
Paul was focused in his prayer. Basically, he prayed that Jesus would be glorified in His church - in all that they say and do. Nowadays, that would be a problem for some because they want all of the glory and are not too happy about sharing it with Jesus!
Folks, let's get real here! This passage of Scripture needs to jolt us into reality. Paul wrote this almost two thousand years ago. Yet, he felt compelled of the Holy Ghost to pray earnestly for the preparation of the saints for the soon return of Jesus. How much more should we be earnestly praying such when we are living in the year 2008?
We belive that this prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1 is instructive for the church. We need to take heed to what Paul wrote here and pray accordingly.
This is the kind of prayer that we should be praying "always" for our spouses, children, families, ministers, brethren, and coworkers.
Our top-priority at this point in time should be to see Jesus glorified in our hearts and lives.
We close with a Scripture from Romans 11:36 which says - "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory for ever. Amen."
One final thought - Jesus is coming back for a Church who will look upon Him with great wonder and admiration. He is not coming back for those who are too busy looking with wonder and admiration at the world and its goods.
In which camp do you belong?
Actually, your prayer list and the content of your prayers at this point in time will answer that question.
May God bless His Word.