2 Thessalonians 3:1
Have you ever wondered how you should pray for missionaries or for people who are preaching the Word on the front lines where it is more difficult? Well, today I’m going to give you the answer. And please—while you’re praying for people on the front lines, be sure to remember to pray for me too!
The apostle Paul did what I call “front-line ministry work.” As noted earlier (see August 3), Paul’s ministry took him places where the Church was nonexistent. He dealt with hostile governments; he faced opposition from false religions; he pushed the evil forces of the demonic realm out of the way; he brought converts from the bleakness of paganism and turned them into living, breathing members of the Body of Christ. This task is never for the light-hearted, but only for the extremely committed.
As Paul makes his final remarks to the Thessalonians in Second Thessalonians 3, he says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us….” The word “finally” comes from the Greek words to loipon, which mean for the rest of the matter or to the last issue at hand. Paul has saved some very vital information for the end of his letter; therefore, he uses the words to loipon to let us know that although his letter is concluding, he still has something of high importance to say to the Thessalonian church.
Then Paul makes his request: “Finally, brethren, pray for us….” The Greek word translated “pray” is from the word proseuchomai. As it is used in this verse, this word means to pray continually or to pray without stopping. Paul is sincerely asking for committed prayer partners who will pray nonstop for his team, his ministry, and for himself. When he says, “Pray for us,” the word “for” is the Greek word peri, which means around or about. Paul is specifically requesting prayer for those things that are around or about them—hence, the things that concern them and their ministry.
Next, Paul gets more specific about how to pray. He says, “Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course….” The Greek could be better translated, “Pray for us, that the Lord’s word may have free course….” The Greek actually means the word that originates from the Lord.
This tells us that Paul was very conscious of the fact that he was not preaching his own manmade message or a message that belonged to him (see Galatians 1:11, 12). He was carrying a divinely revealed message that originated with and belonged to the Lord. In all his years of ministry, Paul was always mindful that the message he carried was given to him by the Lord.
Furthermore, Paul knew that his responsibility was to preach that message. Therefore, he asked the Thessalonians to join him in praying that the Lord’s message might have “free course.” These words “free course” come from the Greek word trecho, which means to run.
Before we go any further, let’s stop and look deeper into the meaning of the word trecho. This word often referred to runners who ran a foot race in a huge stadium before adoring crowds of fans. In order for the runner to run successfully and finish triumphantly, every ounce of his strength and his complete attention was required.
There is no doubt that Paul had this picture in his mind as he wrote this verse, for he was in a race to preach the Gospel to as many souls as possible before he came to the end of his life. He was in a spiritual race, a real competition. Racing urgently and with all his might against the enemy who wants to eternally destroy and damn souls, Paul put forth his best efforts to save as many souls as possible.
However, there is another powerful image in the word trecho that applies to this verse. This word was also used to describe the swift-running messengers who dashed between enemy lines to carry vital messages of instruction to those who waited on the other side of the battle. These especially brave and courageous messengers were essential if battles were to be won.
You can clearly see why Paul would have chosen to use this illustration, for he was indeed a God-sent messenger running back and forth through enemy territory, delivering the message of the Cross, as well as instructions to the churches that looked to him for apostolic leadership. Paul was God’s special, swift-running messenger!
There is no doubt in my mind that Paul used the Greek word trecho to convey both of these ideas to his readers. Paul saw himself as one who was running in a race, competing for the souls of men. He also saw himself as God’s messenger, whose principal goal was to run back and forth through enemy territory, delivering vital information to the people who awaited it. Paul’s intention was that both of these ideas would convey the challenge that lay before him—as well as the reason he needed people to regularly pray for him.
One more important fact must be pointed out. The tense Paul uses when he requests prayer that the word of the Lord may have “free course” indicates a constant and continuous pace. Thus, it is possible to translate this phrase, “Pray that we will be able to keep up the pace that is required for us to get this message out!”
You see, Paul and his associates were already running very hard. If they were going to keep up with God’s pace—if the Gospel message was going to keep spreading at such a miraculous rate of speed—they would need supernatural assistance and empowerment from above!
Finally, Paul makes one last prayer request. He asks for prayer that the word of the Lord may “… be glorified, even as it is with you.” The word “glorified” is the Greek word doxadzo, which paints the picture of the triumphant arrival of God’s glory, ushering in a new and glorious day in the lives and the territories where the word of the Lord is heard and received.
Dr. John Catlin, Professor of Classical Greek and Chairman of the Classics Department at a leading university, once wrote this to me:
At first glance, the language of the New Testament appears to be disarmingly simple, but a deeper look gives us an appreciation of the difficulties facing translators of that work. It is clear that whereas no translation can exactly reproduce the original meaning nevertheless, through an understanding of the original language, or at least the broad range of meaning that many of the words in that language have, it is more readily possible to penetrate and comprehend the meaning of that original language. It’s all too easy for those who are fluent in only one language to assume that there are exact equivalents between languages.
One of the greatest challenges of Bible translators is to translate into English the many ideas and images that are in Greek words. Perhaps no example makes this clearer than Paul’s prayer request in this verse, which in English is a mere twenty-four words in length. But those twenty-four words are packed with power and meaning!
These powerful words used by Paul in Second Thessalonians 3:1 convey the following ideas:
“Finally, brothers, pray for us and for those things that concern us. Pray that the word of the Lord will spread quickly and without resistance. Pray that we will be able to keep up the pace that is required for us to get this message out!
“To fulfill this task, we have to be like runners whose eyes are fixed on the goal before us! We must be like brave, bold, daring, and courageous messengers, whose job is to carry vital information across enemy lines. We have to move promptly and swiftly to get the message of the Gospel to the other side where people are desperately waiting.
“Since the Lord has dispatched us to carry this message, and since this task requires us to run speedily through dangerous territory, we request prayer that we will be able to make it through every skirmish, clash, confrontation, and struggle that we might come across as we run to the other side to deliver the word of the Lord. I request that your prayers be unbroken, uninterrupted, and never-ending. As you pray, remember to specifically stipulate that the word of the Lord would usher in a triumphant and glorious new day in the lives of those who hear it, as it has done among you.”
So now you have an idea of how to pray for missionaries, preachers, or people who are ministering the Word and planting churches in new, unreached regions—the difficult front lines where the Word has never or rarely been preached. Here is a wrap-up of Paul’s prayer request for you to use as you pray for people you know who are working in difficult parts of the world:
- Pray for the missionaries and preachers themselves.
- Pray for the things that concern them, i.e., their families, their finances, their health, etc.
- Pray for the Lord’s message to spread without hindrance from hostile forces.
- Pray for the missionaries and preachers to win the race for souls.
- Pray for them to be protected as they dash through enemy territory.
- Pray constantly, around the clock, for those who are laboring on the front lines!
Now that you know how the apostle Paul wanted people to pray for him, you can use this as a guide to pray for missionaries and preachers in other parts of the world. Why don’t you take a few minutes to start praying for them today?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I ask You today to bless missionaries who are living and working in other parts of the world. Bless their families, their health, their finances, and everything that concerns them. Help them preach with little or no resistance. Empower them to run fiercely as they race to reach souls from being eternally lost. Protect them as they live, work, and dash back and forth through dangerous territory. I pray that the entrance of God’s Word in their communities will break the powers of darkness and usher in a new triumphant day! Help me to remember to pray for them every day!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I love missionaries and support them with my prayers and finances. I appreciate them for leaving their homes, their families, and their natural surroundings, and for uprooting their wives and children and moving to the other side of the world to take the Good News to those who do not have it. I will be faithful to remember them, to honor them, to pray for them, and to support them with my substance. The role I play to support them in prayer and with my finances is essential for their success, so I will fulfill my role faithfully!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- How often do you think of missionaries and preachers who live on foreign soil and who are giving their lives to reach people in other parts of the world?
- Do you financially support any missionaries? If not, is there a reason you’ve never made this a priority in your life? Don’t you think you have a responsibility to make sure the same message that changed your life reaches people who have never heard it before?
- How long has it been since you took the time to sit down and write a missionary to thank him for uprooting his family and moving them to the other side of the world? Even though that missionary family may be a long way from you, a note from you might be the very word of encouragement they need right now. Would you please consider taking a few minutes of your time to show them love and encouragement today?
Paul saw himself as God’s messenger, whose principal goal was to run back and forth through enemy territory, delivering vital information to the people who awaited it.