A Request for Prayer
Dr. Joe Temple

Practical Application of Doctrine

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's second Thessalonian letter, that portion of the Word of God that we have been meditating upon in these last lessons. We want to notice together II Thessalonians, chapter 3, verses 1-5:

I Thessalonians 3

1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
4And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
5And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

I would like for us to think together about the first few verses of this chapter which constitute a prayer request:

I Thessalonians 3

1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

Those of us who have been studying Paul's letters are familiar with the word “finally.” He uses it in every one of his epistles, and it marks a line of demarcation. It does not indicate that he is going to say that last thing which he is going to say; it indicates, rather, that he is passing from doctrinal exposition to practical application.

In the first two chapters of this second letter, we have been studying the doctrine upon which the apostle is going to base his exhortation for practical Christian living. Now, in the third and last chapter of the letter, beginning with the word “finally,” the practical exhortations are forthcoming.

What could be more practical than an exhortation concerning prayer? What could be more practical, as a matter of fact, than a request for prayer? That is exactly what Paul does. He says, “Brethren, pray for us.” He is talking about himself, he is talking about Silas, he is talking about Luke, and he is talking about Timothy. When he makes this request, “Brethren, pray for us,” he is emphasizing something of which we should be aware, whether we are or not; and that is that prayer is a mutual responsibility. Several times over, in the first two chapters of the Thessalonian letter, he has been saying, “I am praying for you.” Now in this last chapter, he is saying, “Pray for me.” Prayer is a mutual responsibility. It is the responsibility of the servant of the Lord, the minister of the Word, the shepherd of the flock of God, to pray for everyone associated with the flock. It is the responsibility of the flock to undergird the shepherd with prayer as well.

I remind you that this is not a spasmodic exercise, but a continuous responsibility. When the apostle said, “Finally, Brethren, pray for us,” the phrase, “pray for us,” is in what we call the present imperative tense, which suggests several things. It suggests something that has already been going on. These Thessalonican believers had been praying for Paul, but it suggests something that must continue without interruption. What he is actually saying is, “Keep on praying for me and don't stop because the need is tremendous.”

Prayer for Ministers of the Word

I would like for us to notice the burden of his request for prayer as we examine these verses today. The first thing that I am going to suggest to you is that Paul requests prayer for the channel through which the Word comes. We have already hinted at that when he said, “Brethren, pray for us.” Yes, the Word of God must go forth, but God uses human means for the Word of God to go forth, and he emphasizes that it is important to pray for the channel through which the Word of God comes.

It is significant to my mind that this is the first request which Paul makes. He does not ask first that you pray for the effectiveness of the Word of God. He asks first that you pray for the channel through whom the Word of God is delivered. This is not at all unusual for the apostle. He has requested in his epistles time and time again prayer for himself, for specific things, as he emphasizes the need in relation to the Word of God.

Perhaps if we look at a few of these things, you will know how to pray more intelligently for the channel through which the Word of God comes. I suggest that you keep a marker here in II Thessalonians, chapter 3, because we will becoming back to it, and turn with me in your Bibles, please, to Paul's second Corinthian letter, chapter 1, and notice verse 7. The apostle said:

I Corinthians 1

7And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
8For 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:
9But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.
10Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
11Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

Notice verse 11, please, where Paul said, “Ye also helping together by prayer for us.” He said, “You are a help to us. You are a help to us because you pray for us.” And he said, “You are not ignorant of some of the things that have happened to us. You made it a matter of prayer, and it was a great help.” What is he talking about? Look down at verse 8. He said, “You were not ignorant, Brethren, of our trouble that came to us in Asia.” And then he speaks not so much of the trouble, but of the effect the trouble had on him physically, spiritually, and mentally when He said, “We were pressed out of measure, above strength, in so much that we despaired even of life.”

I am quite sure that it is true that there are ministers of the Word of God who do not accept their responsibility with deep sincerity, and I am sure that there are preachers today who are playing at the job of ministering the Word of God, but there are some preachers of the Word of God, who accept their responsibility with a deep sense of sincerity. Sometimes the burden of the ministry becomes so great that they find themselves in eactly the place that the Apostle Paul was in in verse 8 where they were “pressed out of measure, above strength, despairing even of life.”

I wonder if you realize today that sometimes the responsibilities of the shepherd of the flock of God can be so heavy that he sometimes feels as though he is pressed out of measure, that he is pressed above strength, that sometimes he despairs even of life, and the only way that he can possibly continue is that he settled a long time ago that matter of life and death, that he had the sentence of death in himself, that death was a very minor matter in the whole affair of life. It is such ministers of the Word of God who need your prayers and who can be helped tremendously as you pray for them. And I would say to you today, as a matter of personal experience and personal reminder, that you can do no greater thing for your minister than to pray for him. The greatest contribution that you can make to his welfare is to hold him up in prayer, because trouble comes and many times you are ignorant of that trouble for any number of reasons. You don't ever need to be afraid of overpraying for your preacher. There is always a tremendous need.

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Ephesians, chapter 6, as we notice again another illustration of how Paul depended constantly upon the prayers of the people to whom he ministered as he carried on the work of God. In chapter 6 of the Ephesian letter, verse 18, he said:

Ephesians 6

18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Let me ask you a question that you do not need to answer audibly. That is, how often have you prayed for your preacher in the manner in which Paul is suggesting here? Has it ever occurred to you that there is a need to pray that utterance might be given to the preacher of the Word of God? Has it ever occurred to you that there might come a time when he might hesitate to open his mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the Gospel, that you need to pray for him that he will have the boldness to speak the Word of God as the Holy Spirit reveals it to him?

Did you notice in the last part of verse 20 Paul included in this request the need for prayer in relation to utterance that the minister of the Word of God might be able to speak boldly as he ought to speak it? It is one thing to speak the Word. It is another thing to speak the Word at the direction of the Holy Spirit and in the manner in which it should be presented. Any minister of the Word of God is subject to human failure. Any minister of the the Word of God is subject to the flesh creeping up and creeping out even in his utterances. Therefore, there is a real ministry of prayer in behalf of the channel through which the Word of God comes that the Word might come with boldness.

Deliverance From Opposition to the Word

Many other requests Paul made of the people to whom he ministered. Time will not permit us to look at them today. We would like to suggest to you, as we turn back to the Thessalonian passage of Scripture, that when Paul was praying requesting prayer for himself, he was requesting prayer for a specific thing. Notice II Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 2:

I Thessalonians 3

2And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

When you have time, read chapter 18 of the Acts of the Apostles, which describes the incident to which Paul referred when he said, “That we might be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.” He was referring to a specific incident. In the original text, the definite article is before the word “unreasonable,” which indicates that he was talking about a specific incident with specific people involved. That incident and people are described in chapter 18 of the Acts.

We hurry on, however, to suggest to you the kind of men that were involved in that incident, because though the channels through whom the Word of God comes today may never be in the city of Corinth as the apostle was, and may never face these same men that he faced, their heirs are still alive; they are still about, and they are still opposing the channels through whom the Word of God comes.

Glance at the second verse and notice that they are described by two words. One of them is the word “unreasonable,” and the other is the word “wicked.” The word “unreasonable”–that is the original word–is used only four times in the New Testament. It comes from the Greek word *ULatopos*UL which means “out of place.” There could never be a better designation for men who oppose the ministry of the Word of God than this phrase, “out of place.” Anyone who opposes the ministry of the Word of God in any fashion whatsoever is definitely out of place.

In chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke, verse 41, this same word is used in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ as He hung upon the Cross. When the thieves were considering what was occurring there, you will remember that the thief who was eventually remembered by the Lord in Paradise said, “We deserve to die. We have done things that are worthy of death.” “ But,” speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, “this man has done nothing amiss.” The word “amiss” there is the very same word that is translated “unreasonable” here, indicating that people who oppose the Word of God are people who are doing something wrong, something amiss.

Further perusal of this word can be had if you will read, when you have the time, chapter 25 of the Acts, verse 5, and again in chapter 28 of the Acts of the Apostles, verse 6, where the same word is used in connection with the Apostle Paul and his innocence when he stood before the representative of Rome.

The word “wicked” that is found in this verse, II Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 2, “unreasonable and wicked men,” is from the Greek word *ULponeria*UL; and it suggests active maliciousness or active harmful incident, the idea being that these people were deliberately dreaming up ways that they could hinder the ministry of the Word of God.

Have you ever thought it was necessary to pray for those who are channels of the Word of God that God would deliver them from those obstructions and those troubles and those persecutions that would hinder the Word of God? I have often thought of the words of the Apostle Paul as they are recorded in chapter 6 of the Galatian letter. It seems to me that he had reached the point of despair in relation to those who were consistently troubling him, consistently trying to hinder the ministry of the Word of God. He was wrapped up in the ministry of the Word, and people were always troubling him. This word “trouble” pictures a pack of dogs snapping at his heels as he was trying to carry on his work for God. In chapter 6 of the book of Galatians, verse 17, he said:

Galatians 6

17From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

It was as though he was saying, “I am tired of it. Now, quit troubling me; quit snapping at my heels. I have borne in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am interested in one thing and one thing alone, and that is a free opportunity to give forth the Word of God.”

Free Course for the Word

Turn back to II Thessalonians, chapter 3, and you will notice that the apostle changes his request from the channel through which the Word of God is come to the course which the Word of God is to take. In the first verse of II Thessalonians, chapter 3, he said, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course.” One request: pray for the channel through which the Word of God is to come. The second request: pray that the Word of God may have free course. What is he talking about when he says, “Pray that the Word of God may have free course”? The word “course” is from the Greek word *ULtrecho*UL which elsewhere in the Word of God is translated “run.” The picture is of a runner who is ready to start out on a particular course, and every obstacle in that course has been removed so that nothing will slow down the running of the individual race, or such is the picture related to the Word of God.

This becomes evident if you will look with me at several passages of Scripture in which his Greek word *ULtrecho*UL is used and translated by the word “run.” Turn in your Bibles, please, to the letter to the Galatians, chapter 2, and notice verse 1:

Galatians 2

1Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

Notice the word “run” there. It is the same word that is translated “course” in our text today. What is Paul requesting prayer for? He is requesting prayer that the Word of God may run without interference so that it will not have run in vain. I am afraid that all too often we rest too glibly on the promise of the Word of God that “my word,” as God says in the book of Isaiah, “will not return unto me void, but will accomplish the purpose for which it is sent forth.” That is true; that is God's Word, but evidently some things can slow down the running of the Word or there would be no need to make requests such as this. Perhaps sometimes the Word can't accomplish its purpose because there are too many obstacles in the way.

Notice in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 7, for emphasis upon this very thing that I am talking about at the moment.

Galatians 5

7Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

Do you see the word “run” there in that verse? It is the very same word as the word “course” in our text. Here were these Galatians. In relation to their spiritual experience, they had done really well up to a point, but they were not doing well now. Something had hindered them. I wonder if we cannot recognize the parallel in relation to the Word of God. Sometimes when the Word of God is given forth, it runs swiftly to accomplish its purpose. Other times, it would seem that it doesn't accomplish its purpose as readily as we would like. Could we be resting when we ought to be praying? Could we be forgetting that things can hinder the Word of God?

Notice this same word again in Philippians, chapter 2, verse 16. The apostle, teaching of our responsibility in the world, says:

Philippians 2

16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

Notice the word “run.” It is our very same word. I am wondering how much labor the minister of the Word of God might have placed upon a particular study or a particular message all in vain because the people of God failed to pray for the free course of the Word of God as it is given forth. I am not talking about little essays that may be delivered from time to time from various pulpits, but I am talking about hours upon hours of labor that go into preparation of a thirty minute message from the pulpit. I wonder how much of that labor is in vain because the people of God do not think to pray for the free course of the Word of God. God intends that His Word should move swiftly.

Turn, please, to Psalm 147, verse 15, and listen closely to the words concerning the Word of God. The Psalmist said:

Psalms 147

15He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.

That is God's intent for the Word of God, that it should run very swiftly. But alas, all too often it does not.

Turn back to II Thessalonians, chapter 3, as I remind you that what the apostle is praying for in relation to the free course of the Word of God, that the Word of God may run with all obstructions removed so that it can accomplish its natural purpose. I would like to suggest that wicked men, as we have seen in our text today, can obstruct the Word of God, so we need to pray that the Word of God will not be obstructed by wicked men. Then we need to recognize that the Devil can obstruct the free course of the Word of God. If you want the manner in which the Devil can obstruct the free course of the Word of God, you might read chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew.

Word Glorified In Believers

The fourth thing that I want to say to you, and it by far the most important it seems to me, is that the free course of the Word of God can be, and I am afraid all too often is, obstructed more by the child of God than by any other person. I believe that the Word of God is obstructed more by the child of God than wicked men. I believe that it is obstructed more by the child of God than the Devil. I believe that the children of God obstruct the Word of God more often than anyone else. I think that is the reason for the third request in our text to which we call your attention now, if you will glance at the first verse again:

I Thessalonians 3

1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

Request number one: pray for us. Request number two: pray for the Word of God that it may have free course. Request number three: pray that the Word of God may be glorified in the hearts and the lives of those who hear it. The apostle said, “Pray for the channel through which the Word of God comes; pray for the course which the Word of God is to take, and pray that the claim which the Word of God makes upon the life of the individual believer may be honored.” That is really the meaning of the word “glorified.” The word “glorified” comes from the Greek word *ULdoxa*UL, and it means “to hold in honor” the thing in question. I ask you today, do you hold in honor the Word of God? Do you hold in honor the Word of God before the eyes of the world? If you do, then the Word of God is being glorified in you. And if you don't, the Word of God is not being glorified in you, and you become one of those who are able to obstruct the free course of the Word of God because you do not honor the claims of the Word of God in your life.

Honoring the Word of God

I want to suggest to you three ways given to us in the Word of God whereby we can fail to honor the claims of God in our lives. These are not all of the means, but they are three of the ways. Turn, please, in your Bibles, to II Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 17. The apostle, speaking of how he honored the claims of the Word of God in his life, said:

I Corinthians 2

17For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

The apostle said, “I do not corrupt the Word of God.” What does it mean to corrupt the Word of God? This word “corrupt” in the original language is a word that is used in connection with a huckster, a vegetable salesman traveling about from place to place, who is known by the fact that he consistently gives a short measure. He short-measures the things that he sells. And that is exactly what happens to many people in relation to the Word of God. They short-measure the Word of God. They do not accept the Word of God at its ordinary meaning, but they short-measure it in their own lives. They do not let the Word of God speak for itself, but they water it down; they cut it down so that no one can tell that the full measure of the Word of God is evident in their lives.

Notice, please, II Corinthians, chapter 4, to find something else very much akin to what we are talking about now. In II Corinthians, chapter 4:I

I Corinthians 4

1Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
2But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Notice the phrase right in the middle of the second verse there, “handling the word of God deceitfully.” Notice the word “deceitfully.” It is a word in the original text which speaks about adulterating the Word of God. How often when we find something within the Word of God that is not to our liking, we adulterate it in some fashion. We change its true aspect so that it can be pleasing to us and we can accomplish our own way without really honoring the Word of God.

Turn, please, to the book of Galatians and notice chapter 1, where the apostle said, in verse 6:

Galatians 1

6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Notice the word “pervert.” This is a word that means that we turn the thing in question into something of an opposite character altogether. Paul said he was amazed that these Galatian Christians could so soon turn after another Gospel. And I am amazed at the ease with which people pervert the Word of God with the manner in which they make it say something exactly opposite of what God intended it to say just so they can accomplish their own ends and their own purposes.

Conclusion

People have said to me sometimes, “I wish I had a prayer life; but sometimes when I get down on my knees, I pray about everything I can think of in five minutes and there is nothing more to pray about. That is why I don't have very much of a prayer life.” Sometimes people have said to me, “I wish I would do something for the Lord. I wish I could really do something for Him.” I often wonder why they don't enter the ministry of intercession. I have suggested enough to you that should keep you busy on your knees for hours every week, just praying for the channels through which the Word of God comes, praying for the free course of the Word of God that all obstructions might be removed, and praying that those whom you know, and perhaps more definitely for you yourself, that you will have the grace to honor the claims of the Word of God in your life. Let us face it. There are multitudes of people who are sitting under the Word of God who do not honor the claims of the Word of God in their lives, and that is the reason it is no more effective than it is.


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