Paul’s Special Prayer Request – I Thessalonians 5:17

 

It can be safely said that no Christian has a prayer life as deep, as spiritual and as thorough as it ought to be. Paul exhorted his friends in Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing” because they were not. But he probably wrote those words without embarrassment, because “without ceasing” may have characterized his own prayer life. I think “pray without ceasing” means to begin each day in prayer and end each day in thanksgiving. And in between time, even though we have a thousand things to do, we should carry out each task with an attitude of prayer. In other words, the Lord should be very near our every thought – our every deed. There should be a very tiny step between where we are and where the Lord is. Every place we go should become the Lord’s tabernacle. And in our hearts, if not our hands, there should be a censer filled the odor of godly prayer.

But incessant prayer; importunate prayer; selfless prayer; holy prayer is not my subject this evening. I’d like us to consider a very special prayer request which Paul laid out before his friends. There are occasions when we all have special needs, and sometimes we ask our brethren to pray for us. Eight verses after Paul said, “Pray without ceasing,” he said, “Brethren, pray for US “Pray for Timothy, for Silas and for me.”

There is no Christian who does not need, or who could not use, the prayers of his brethren. None of us are smart enough, strong enough, spiritual enough not to need more of the blessing of God. There would be nothing wrong with you reminding me, or the rest of us, “Brethren, pray for me.” The Lord wants to hear the prayers of His people; He answers the faith-filled prayers His people. “It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Prayer glorifies God, and it should keep His servants humble. Not even the most eminent of saints can say they don’t need the prayers of others – not even Paul. And if Paul requested and needed prayer where does that leave us? Quite frankly, I need prayer.

I don’t usually permit myself to become the subject of my own sermons. That may be a mistake, and if it’s a problem, it is one of my own making. This evening I intend to refer to the words of Paul, but I’d like you to think of them as my own, because they certainly apply. And we could also say, “Brethren, pray for Brother Fulton, pray for Brothers Glen Brown, Fred Nimmo and Tim Parrow.” And it is not just that Brother Fulton has hip and leg pain; pray for him. It is not only that Brother Parrow has heart problems, and Brother Nimmo is recovering from surgery. As we shall see, all these men need prayer in regard to the work of the ministry. They are in spiritual battles which the average Christian does not often face. They must prepare their hearts as well as their sermons, and that requires God’s special blessing. “Brethren, pray for us.”

Let us begin by asking, “How often did Paul ask for prayer?”

Would it surprise you to learn that he specifically asked others to pray for him in seven different scriptures? In the order which we find them, they are: Romans 15:30 – “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” Ephesians 6:187-19 – “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me…” Colossians 4:3 “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us.” I Thessalonians 5:25 – “Brethren, pray for us.” II Thessalonians 3:1-3“Finally, brethren, pray for us.” And Hebrews 13:19“Pray for us.

Before I get to the second point in my outline, let me point to a couple of important sidebars. In Romans 15:30 Paul says, “I BESEECH you” to pray for me. “Beseech” is a word not often used in everyday English, but most of us understand its intent. People came to Christ “beseeching” Him for sick loved ones – they “besought” Him for miracles. The word speaks of requesting things with intensity, earnestness, internal pain and heart-break. In truth there are three Greek words translated “beseech,” and they all have different points of view. One refers to a great need “Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son.” A second word implies great confusion or a great question – after Jesus met with the woman at the well the men of the city, “besought Him that he would tarry with them.” The most common word – the one in Romans 15:30 is “parakaleo” – which is often translated “comfort” – “Lord I really need your comfort and blessing.” “There came a leper unto Him, beseeching him.” Paul was saying, “I beseech you for the comfort which only your prayers can provide.”

And a second thing about Romans 15:30 takes us straight back to the Lord Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit….” Paul wasn’t asking for the Romans’ prayers for something temporal or fleshly. He was not asking for something condemned by James in chapter 4 “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Paul’s prayer requests – as should be yours and mine – were “for the (sake of) Lord Jesus Christ, and for the love of the Spirit.”

Something else comes from Ephesians 6 and its memorable description of the Christian armor. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against he wiles of the Devil.” For 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. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me.”

The thing I’d like you to see at this point before we consider the prayer itself is this: You may be fully attired in the panoply of God, but you might be no better than David when he was wearing the armor of Saul. Prayer enables the armor of God to function to the degree that it was meant to work. The sword of the Spirit, for example, is useless in my hand unless the Spirit empowers it. That was as necessary for Paul as it is for any of the rest of us.

Using these scriptures, about what did Paul ask prayer from the brethren?

Please return to Romans 15:30 – “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me. That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. Where was Paul when he made this request for prayer? It came as a part of a missionary prayer letter sent to Rome from Corinth. The Romans were 750 miles from Paul’s current ministry. Nevertheless, he asked them to “strive together” with him. The Greek compound word is literally “agonize with me” and it speaks about risking oneself. Despite the miles, the sea and the culture between them, Paul was asking them to join his fight.

Picture a lone figure with his sword drawn and his shield up, facing a huge menacing monster. That is Paul fighting against the Satanic beasts of wicked and idolatrous Corinth. He is suggesting that the Roman saints could join him in the fray by way of the mysterious, but godly means of earnest prayer. But it must be “earnest prayer.” The Greek word suggests intensity; it is “sunagonizomai” (soon-ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee) – “agonize with.” Paul didn’t need of a pat on the back or a shout across the miles “You can do it, Paul.” He wanted and needed others to join him in the fight – “striving together with him in their prayers.” Godly prayer is an actual linking of arms, joining of shields and simultaneous swinging of swords.

Today’s spiritual battle is no different from Paul’s day – except that we are often more blind to the dangers. “What danger is there in standing before a dozen friendly faces to preach the gospel?” Can you assure me there are no hate-filled demons surrounding that lost man – demons who would not delight to bring the preacher down? Are you sure there aren’t any Muslims, atheists or homosexuals, willing to take the risk of destroying this church or disrupting this service? Do you think that just because Paul is called of God that he might not fall before the next temptation thrown against him? Is it impossible for Paul to grow discouraged with the lack of progress in Corinth?

“That I may come unto you” suggests perhaps that an actual, physical deliverance might be necessary. Paul says, “Please strive together – agonize with me – in your prayers to God, that I may be delivered.” A week ago, Brother Dean Robinson emailed a thank you note to me for the money the church sent. He also replied to an invitation I gave him to come visit us. He explained several reasons why he couldn’t come, despite having a desire to do so. It quite literally would take a “deliverance” for him to come preach for us. In his case, it is “not a deliverance from them that do not believe,” but it is a deliverance nevertheless. There are family responsibilities, financial problems, employment complications which have trapped him.

“I beseech you, brethren… that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered … that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.” Doesn’t Paul request prayer that he might be filled with joy? How often did Elijah minister without joy? How often did Paul go about his duties without joy? Pray that the man of God may come to the pulpit filled with all the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace…

And he said, that I “may with you be refreshed.” Not only should we pray that God’s man come filled with joy, but that he leave refreshed. Refreshed with the Holy Spirit, but also in seeing the joy there is in the hearts of God’s people. One of my hopes was that Brother Rodney Spears could come to give us a blessing., But at the same time that he could relax and be rejuvenated for his work back home. Alas, I confess to not praying sufficiently for him. He can’t come at all. I got a text the other day which said that his calendar is too full to be able to preach for us at camp.

II Corinthians 1 contains Paul’s second plea for the prayers from the saints.

From Corinth he asked for the prayers of the saints in Rome. And while in Philippi, Macedonia, he referred to the prayers of the saints which were in Corinth. Verse 7 – “Our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.”

Paul believed that the brethren in Corinth helped to deliver him from Asian persecution by their prayers. But the context seems to hint that they didn’t know that he was under persecution at the time. “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia.” We can never fully understand the problems of our closest friends, but we can pray for them. Shouldn’t we assume that they have ups and downs, in the same way we do? Pray for them and pray for the pastor, because there may be more storms in his life as there are in yours.

But be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that “Bless Brother Paul” is really praying. “Bless the missionaries” is not the same thing as striving in prayer for those missionaries. Yes, we may not know the specific problems or Satanic attack of the moment, but we must put a little more heart into our beseeching than three simple little words. A second trap is praying for the personal needs of the missionary while forgetting his purpose and work. Paul requests prayer “that the gift bestowed upon us… may be given.” Yes, there may be back pain, broken hips, and weak hearts, but relief from these without God’s blessing on the ministry itself is somewhat pointless.

Ephesians 6:18-20 shows us other specific prayer requests from the Apostle Paul.

After describing the Christian’s armour Paul went on. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

The word “utterance” in verse 19 is a very common word with several important implications. It is “logos.” “Praying always … for me, that UTTERANCE may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” The word “logos” obviously can be translated “utterance” as in the sense of “speech.” But it is more important when it refers to the “word” as in the “word of God” and even more important than that when speaking of Christ “the word.” “Praying always … for me, that the Words of God may be given unto me.”

I can’t speak for other preachers and pastors, but there is not a single day in the week when I am not preparing something from God’s word to share with you. You may not think of it, but on Monday and Thursday I need you to “Praying for me, that utterance may be given unto me.” Paul specifically said, “Praying ALWAYS … for me, that utterance may be given unto me.”

Probably Paul would not agree, and perhaps few other pastors would ever admit it. But there are occasions when the presence of some person – a visitor, a friend, another preacher, upsets my ability to preach the message of the moment the way I intended to preach it. Maybe one day it is simple distraction, but on another it is intimidation; or I be robbed of confidence. I know that it’s a problem with my flesh; perhaps a lack of faith; sometimes a fear of man. But as Paul suggests, if God’s people are praying as they should, these things should never come up. “Praying always … for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.”

He adds, “for which I am an ambassador…” Only the Lord can enable a man to be the godly representative He needs. Paul was dependent upon the Holy Spirit to be the best possible ambassador. And there hasn’t been an ambassador for the Lord since Paul, who didn’t need the prayers of the saints for that ministry.

II Thessalonians 3:1-2 is very much like these others scriptures.

“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.” Once again, Paul prays that the “logos” may have free course. May the preacher have liberty in sharing the Word of God. Pray that the sermon flows well; that the hearers are receptive or at the very least not antagonistic.

But there is an added point “Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified. We need to pray that God’s Word be “magnified,” “honored” and “lifted up” in the way it deserves to be. I find it interesting that this specific prayer request is presented to this particular church. This is the same people to whom Paul said, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance… ” I Thessalonians1:5. This is what is lacking in so many of our churches today. The Word of the Lord is glorified when the Holy Spirit can drive it like a nail into the hearts of men – Christian and lost. We need to make conviction a part of our daily and weekly prayers.

Paul’s last prayer request is expressed in Hebrews 13:18-19.

Obviously, I just said that this was Paul’s prayer request. Not everyone says that this is from the pen of Paul; smarter men that I am deny that. But two things lead me towards Paul. There are a lot of Pauline similarities in the book, such as the reference to Timothy in verse 23. And there is the fact that whoever wrote it was well-known to the readers. “Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.”

Not only does Paul ask for the Lord’s will in his restoration to freedom. But he asks for God’s blessing in a good conscience and honest living. Doesn’t this seem just a bit odd? Aren’t there people whom you would never think they had an evil thought – a dishonest heart – a bad conscience? Don’t you suppose that Paul would have had about as pure a life as HUMANLY possible? Perhaps so.

But I used the very dangerous word “humanly.” Paul was “a man of like passions as we are.” Of whom was James speaking when he said, so-and-so “was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months”? James was speaking about Elijah, a great servant of God, who sinned against the Lord through unbelief. If Elijah could fall, and if Elijah needed prayer, what about Paul, Timothy, David, Austin, Fred, and Glen?

Paul asked prayer for a good conscience because he was just as susceptible to unbelief and other sins as Elijah was and as I am. “Pray for me,” he asked. If you were totally honest, wouldn’t you admit that you need the Lord’s blessings in these areas as well. Sadly, when it is the man of God who brings shame to the Work of the Lord, the ramifications can be catastrophic. “Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.”

We are living in dangerous days – the last days. Satan may think that he is growing in strength and he may envision victory. He places the sights of his guns on the most prominent of God’s servants, like the Apostle Paul. And Paul knowing this says, “Brethren, pray for us.”

“Brethren, pray for us.” Pray for deliverance from circumstances, temptations and from unbelievers. Pray for wisdom in messages and even in traveling for the ministry. The apostle can be in only one place at a time; where does the Lord want him next? Pray for personal purity for the man of God and victory over his besetting sins. “Brethren, pray for us.”