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A Life of Prayer












In 2020, we unexpectedly found ourselves in the middle of crisis. Few of us knew what COVID was. Before we understood what was happening, many of us had lost our jobs or had our income drastically cut. For some, loved ones were gone. We were isolated, washing groceries and purchasing all the hand sanitizer we could online. We did not know how long. We did not know what tomorrow's news would bring. Many of us, perhaps for the first time in our adult lives, slowed down. Amid this crisis, online church and video chat found their way into our lives. Prayers increased as people looked for hope and understanding.


As I write these words and consider our lesson, my wife is traveling with our daughters. The house is quiet, and I can only hear the sound of cars passing by our home occasionally. A dog is barking in the distance, but the birds are even quiet as the sun has set. In the stillness, I am reminded of the isolation we experienced a few short years ago. I am curious about our prayers. Have they gone silent as well?


In our lesson series, we are considering Paul's first letter to the church in Thessalonica. We are about halfway through our study, and we come to a prayer of the apostle Paul. 1 Thessalonians can be divided into two main movements. Chapters 1-3, Faithfulness, and 4-5, A Challenge to Grow. The beginning of the letter opens with a prayer of thanksgiving (1:1-5). The final prayer is in (5:23-28), and the two movements are connected by prayer (3:11-13), where we find our study today.


Connecting Links

Paul prays for three specific points in his prayer. He prays that the church would increase in love.


1 Thessalonians 3:12

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”


He prays for their lives to be characterized by holiness and hope.


1 Thessalonians 3:13

“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”


Paul desires and prays that the church would be set apart as they look forward in hope to the return of our Lord Jesus. This prayer pulls together themes Paul has discussed and practical as well as theological points he will discuss moving forward in his letter. I want to consider these points as we move forward in our studies. For today, I would like for us to consider a few brief points on prayer.


Pray Without Ceasing


Through Paul's prayer, I am challenged to consider my prayers. In the middle of Paul's thoughts, in the middle of this letter, Paul pauses to pray. Later in this letter (5:17), Paul instructs the church, as well as us, to "pray continually." This has always challenged me. How do we pray continually?


Paul is not so much saying that we are to pray without interruption. Even in our text, we notice Paul begins and ends this prayer as he moves from one thought to the next. Paul has used this same word earlier about his prayers.


1 Thessalonians 1:2

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.”


Paul maintains a constant habit of mentioning those in Thessalonica in his prayers. What I believe Paul to be speaking about is maintaining continuous fellowship with the Father. As much as possible in our daily lives, we should maintain the habit of speaking with our Father. Prayer, speaking to our Father, needs to be a natural part of our relationship with the Father. Just like any relationship, communication is vital. Prayer draws us closer to God and strengthens our relationship with Him. Prayer is to be ongoing communication with God. What happens when communication breaks down? When communication breaks down, the relationship deteriorates as well. Without communication, we cannot have a relationship. Tyler Staton, in his book Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, writes this:

"Prayer is about presence before it's about anything else. Prayer doesn't begin with outcomes. Prayer is the free choice to be with the Father, to prefer his company. In our desire for certain outcomes, we are tempted to begin there. But we cannot brush past simply being with the Father and arrive at anything close to the sort of prayer Jesus won back for us. Prayer starts with presence." (1)

Prayer is presence with the Father.


Prayer Is Grounded in God


Prayer is grounded in God - God as revealed through Jesus. In this short prayer, Paul draws together God the Father and Jesus our Lord.


"Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you." (1 Thess. 3:11)


"May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." (1 Thess. 3:13)


N.T. Wright comments on this passage:


"This isn't simply a matter of getting the labels right for the God we are talking to. Prayer that is grounded in the character of God, as revealed in Jesus, is prayer that is learning to depend on the goodness, the generosity, the sovereign love, of this God as they are unveiled in Jesus' saving death and triumphant resurrection."(2)

As we notice this prayer and others of Paul, we see that the character of God shapes Paul's prayers. Paul continually relies on God's wisdom, God's strength, His abundant grace, and God's direction. His prayers are consistent with the character of God. Paul prays for love to increase, the holiness of God to be reflected, and the hope we have in our Lord. Prayer needs to move our character in alignment with the nature of God as we reflect His kingdom.


Crossing The Context


There is much more we could say about prayer. Not too long ago, we participated in a short series on Prayer. That series is available at simplyrevised.org if you would like to go back and review it. I would also invite you to pick up a copy of Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools for a very readable and challenging conversation on prayer. Tyler encourages us to enter a rewarding life of prayer.


Have our prayers gone silent? I pray that they have not. Prayer can be difficult or perhaps even awkward. Like any relationship, those first few conversations can feel uncomfortable. It takes time to develop a relationship, and as we do, the conversation becomes easier. Prayer, in many ways, is no different. Take the time to cultivate the relationship. Prayer draws us closer to God and strengthens our relationship with Him.


Our prayers need to be grounded in the character and nature of God. Through the relationship of prayer, it's not about getting the formula right; it's about our lives reflecting Him. Spending time with our Father in prayer helps us realize our dependence on Him and allows our character to align with His nature and kingdom.


Communication is needed in any relationship; without it, the relationship often falters. As Christians, we need to maintain a lifestyle of constant communication with our Father.



notes:


Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).


1. Staton, Tyler. Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools. Zondervan Books, 2024. p. 27.

2. Wright, Nicholas T. Paul For Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians. Westminster John Knox Press, 2004. p. 210.


resources & downloads


Notes & Handout: A Life of Prayer

Slides (PDF): A Life of Prayer






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