Explore the Bible Study: Praying

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Praying for another person changes our perspective and theirs. Yet, prayer is much more than a meditative experience that calms the soul. It is a powerful tool for the believer that taps into the very throne room of God. LifeWay's Explore the Bible Study: Praying, focuses on 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5. This study can help you learn how prayer can impact the lives of believers as you examine the powerful elements of Paul’s continued prayer for the believers in Thessalonica. 

Paul Prayed They Would Stand Firm in Their Faith and Truth – 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

Paul begins by giving thanks for them. Just as he had done in the past, Paul used the word “ought” to emphasize that he had a heartfelt desire that was as strong as an obligation. The obligation was not just a one-time prayer of thanksgiving but an ongoing discipline to “always” (continually) give thanks for them.

Paul was grateful that God had chosen them, indicating that his gratitude was not just for their friendship but for God’s salvation which they received through believing the truth regarding Jesus Christ and through the powerful sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. While Paul points out that it was God who saved them, he was continuously grateful that God allowed him personally to watch this unfold as he faithfully shared the gospel when in Thessalonica.

Then, in verse 15, Paul offers a challenge in his prayer of thanksgiving. Typically, we think of traditions in a negative light, but the Greek word Paul used describes the foundational truths that had been passed down from Jesus through the apostles. Remember, earlier Paul had referenced the incident related to the false teachers and the second coming indicating that the Christians in Thessalonica still had some growing to do. Heretics had upset them and left them unstable (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Paul urged them to regain their spiritual footing and to persevere or to stand firm. But standing firm was much more than holding ground. It also involved holding onto what they had been taught, both verbally and through the letters Paul had written to them.

What does standing firm in faith look like for you?

If you aren’t continuing to grow in your knowledge of God’s Word, then it will be difficult for you to stand firm because you don’t know what teachings you should hold onto. We should all pray for one another that we can stand firm because of what we know to be truth, that is only found in God’s Word!

Paul Prayed for Them to be Encouraged - 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Consider this: why didn’t Paul simply say, “I’m praying that your hearts will be encouraged and strengthened"? Paul was focusing beyond his words of encouragement and directed them to a source of encouragement that was much greater - God's and Jesus Christ's encouragement. They love us like no one else can love us. Their encouragement is eternal. They have given us hope because of their grace. 

While other religions teach a “wait and see if you’re good enough” theology, the gospel emphasizes the finished work of Christ. Because of what Jesus did in their lives, the Thessalonians could rest assured their future was secure. While the world may pretend to offer security and help, its offerings pale in comparison to the true hope God provides. Hope is a gift from God.

Who could you pray for in this manner? In what ways might this encourage them?

Paul Asked That They Pray for Him and His Companions – 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

In the Greek wording, pray for us indicates an ongoing habit rather than a one-time action. Prayer was a way the Thessalonians could participate in Paul’s work from a distance.

Paul’s prayer request might be unusual to us because, many times, our prayers for one another are focused on physical needs, family matters, or circumstances we are facing. Yet, Paul didn’t mention any of this in his prayer request. His prayer was that God would continue to give them opportunities to spread the gospel and for protection from those who reject Christ and might desire to hurt them. Paul’s request reflected humility and dependence on the Lord.

What are some ways in which you could develop or have developed a habit of ongoing prayer for others?

Paul Prayed They Would be Strengthened and Protected – 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Humans consistently let one another down and betray each other. Paul described a God who stands in stark contrast to human frailty. The Lord can be trusted when everyone else disappoints. God’s faithfulness would demonstrate itself in two ways: He would strengthen the Thessalonians and would guard them from the evil one.

In what ways has the Lord strengthened you and guarded you from evil? How does this give you strength for what you are experiencing today? In what ways do you need to be protected from the evil one?

The Christian life is filled with obstacles, and the battles in Thessalonica would only grow more intense. Whether beset by unreliable people or the evil works of Satan and his representatives, God would equip His people to complete His work. While hardships will come, believers never face anything bigger than the God who watches over them.

Paul Prayed They Would Experience God’s Love and Christ’s Endurance – 2 Thessalonians 3:4-5

Paul’s prayer expressed his confidence in the Thessalonian believers because they had remained faithful even though they had experienced struggles from false teachers and persecution. Hearing this from Paul would certainly embolden them to continue to remain faithful. If his words weren’t enough, Paul prayed that God would remind them of His eternal love and Christ’s endurance. God loved us so much that Christ endured the cross for our salvation. We should pray that all believers, especially those we know personally, can be reminded of this so that we can continue to do what God commands.

How would would your faith be impacted if someone said to you, through a prayer or letter, that they have confidence in you?

How would you describe God’s love and Christ’s endurance? 

Why should we pray that other believers will direct their hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance?

 How Should You Pray?

Prayer is more than a meditative experience that fills some void in our lives or brings about calming emotions. As I mentioned earlier, the prayer of believers is Holy Spirit initiated and taps into the very throne room of God where Jesus is interceding on our behalf. Authentic prayer is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life as that individual is prompted, instructed, and empowered to pray what only God can accomplish.

Consider the things included in Paul’s prayer:

  • Paul Prayed They Would Stand Firm in Their Faith and Truth
  • Paul Prayed for Them to be Encouraged
  • Paul Asked That They Pray for Him and His Companions
  • Paul Prayed They Would be Strengthened and Protected
  • Paul Prayed They Would Experience God’s Love and Christ’s Endurance

Can you think of individuals who need prayers centered on one or more of these specific items? Develop a plan for praying for them and let them know you are praying for them in this manner.

Develop a plan or tweak your prayers to include intentional prayer for one another, your church leaders, missionaries, and Christian workers across the globe throughout the week. Pray that they will be encouraged, that the gospel message will spread through their efforts, and for God’s protection and covering over their lives. If possible, let them know you are praying for them and offer them words of encouragement.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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