2 Th 1:11 “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:”
Yesterday, I stood at the cold, difficult graveside of a dear pastor out of state who just suffered the loss of his wife just two brief months after being diagnosed with cancer. As a regular bystander in these kinds of bittersweet moments, I often feel at a loss of what to say, not just to the believer suffering but to the Lord who sovereignly allows that suffering. What should we pray for our fellow believers-no matter where they live on the planet or what up or down season of life they find themselves? According to John MacArthur, Paul provides in our text today a three-fold prayer that is truly “one size fits all.”
Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians (folks who faced great challenges) contains three vital and dynamic spiritual issues that are critical for all believers:
Paul’s first request is that God “would count you worthy of this calling.” This is a broad request that encompasses our Christian character. If we claim to belong to Christ, we need to live in such a way that honors Him.
The phrase “your calling” is a rich New Testament concept that always, in the epistles, refers to the effectual saving call that results in regeneration. This is not a call to repent or believe. It is the calling described by Paul in Romans: “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Ro. 8:30). There, “calling” takes its place in the flow of salvation—the “calling” that activates in time the election in eternity past. And it is an irrevocable call (Ro. 11:29). In his first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul discussed the importance of this calling: “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (1 Th. 2:12).
Paul’s point is clear. Believers have been called to salvation—to bear the name Christian and become identified as God’s people. So he prays for us to be deserving of bearing Christ’s name…
Paul’s second request is for God to “fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness.” The Greek word translated “fulfill” (pleroō) means “to accomplish.” So Paul is asking God to accomplish in our lives every desire that is good by His definition.
The Psalms often reflect this desire. David prayed, “Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and Thou hast not withheld the request of his lips. For Thou dost meet him with the blessings of good things” (Ps. 21:2–3). He also said, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (37:4). Will God give you everything your heart desires? He will as long as your delight is in Him and your desires are His desires. That truth is verified by this brash statement: “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me” (138:8). How could David be so bold? Because his agenda was the same as God’s agenda.
I’m sure many people assume God is reluctant to make anyone happy—that He receives some measure of satisfaction by leaving people in permanent misery to remind them He’s stringent and demanding. But that’s not true at all. God wants to give you the desire of your heart as long as your desire is consistent with His. Psalm 145:16 indicates that God satisfies the desire of every living thing. God is generous and gracious. He longs to give His children what they desire, but only when it is a righteous desire.
Paul’s third request is for God to “fulfill … the work of faith with power.” The Thessalonian believers already were involved in the work of faith (v. 3). Their faith was real because it produced fruit. But now Paul wants to see them enlarge their faith, so he prays for their faith to be more powerful.
Paul prayed that way for the Ephesians: “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). The power of God is released in you when you allow God’s Word to dominate your life (Col. 3:16).
What you pray for your partner in life, for your children, for your friends, for the people you love, should not be limited to temporal things. Instead ask God to make their work of faith powerful, fulfill their longings for goodness, and cause their lives to be worthy to bear the name of Christ.
…Worthiness refers to spiritual character. It should be our desire that the Lord would make us the kind of people we ought to be. Fulfillment speaks of God bringing about in our lives every holy longing. And power is necessary for our service to be truly effective. When you pray for your loved ones or for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for their worthiness, fulfillment, and power in service. When those issues are the priority of our prayers and our patterns of obedience, God will be honored.”
This verse and these thoughts truly steadied my soul as I entered into prayer this morning. What other verses/requests have you found help you pray for your fellow Christians especially during their tough times?
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 125–129). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
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