“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” – 1 Thessalonians 1:2 (NASB)
It was about A.D. 51 when the Apostle Paul wrote from Corinth this letter to those believers in Thessalonica. They constituted the church which was founded on Paul’s second mission trip. With Paul was Timothy and Silas, so it is those three that make up the “we.” Paul was a man of prayer and he with his companions prayed frequently for the all those who were in the church. Paul uses a favorite three-fold combination of faith, hope and love. The Thessalonians’ response to the preaching of the gospel in their midst established indisputable proof of their salvation. The evidence of God’s love for the Thessalonian believers was His choice of them unto salvation. From the Greek word translated chosen (eklogēn) comes our English “election.” That God has chosen to bless some individuals with eternal life is clearly taught in many places in both the Bible. Likewise clear, is the fact that God holds each of us personally responsible for our decision to trust or not to trust in Jesus Christ. Verse six affirms their choice as they followed Paul and in his submission to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
“For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; ” – Ephesians 1:15-16 (NASB)
In the letters which were written by the Apostle Paul and sent to the believers in the churches he had planted, we find awesome prayers. Often what Paul wrote is translated into very long sentences. The prayers of the Apostle Paul, which he offered on behalf of the believers in the churches he planted, are packed with such great truth. We can notice that Paul’s reason was his receiving news about their faith and their love for all the saints. Love for other believers evidences their saving faith and is a cause of thanksgiving. In today’s selected verses Paul tells the Ephesians how he does not cease to give thanks and includes them when he prays. Paul must have had a very long prayer list and long prayers sessions. In the verses that follow, (Ephesians 1:18-23) Paul prays listing the specifics. Some of what he prayed for us to have knowledge and experience of are: a spirit of wisdom, knowledge of Him, enlightened eyes (vision or sight), the hope of His calling, riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, surpassing greatness of His power toward believers, the strength of His might.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)
Is it possible that the turmoil governments in many countries cause a certain amount of anxiety? Is it possible that we find ourselves wondering how to respond or pray for those in leadership of the government? So much seems bent on an evil course. Because Jesus always prays, we can always pray. Every sinner is in the reach of God’s grace, and no sinner is beyond the need for prayer. When the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, he gave these instructions for prayer. God desires all kinds of men and women to be saved. So he instructs us to pray for the salvation of all kinds of men and women. No boundary is set to limit our prayers for the salvation of the lost. We are to follow in obedience these instructions even though we know it is God who saves. He chose us even before the foundation of the world. It may seem like a contradiction or dichotomy we cannot resolve. In our limited abilities to reason and understand, it is just that. But it is what God has given us to do. Pray for all and exclude none as our Lord God has assigned to us this duty.
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord.” Luke 1:13b-15a (ESV)
We focus this time of the year mostly on the miraculous birth of Jesus the Messiah. He was the fulfillment of a promise made when only two humans lived on this earth. If we study the whole story, especially as Luke recounted it, we know of another miraculous birth⸺one of another kind that was also a fulfillment of a promise. The promise of one who would proceed Jesus and prepare the way for him. Zechariah and Elizabeth loved and served the Lord God but had no children. This grieved them both and they prayed earnestly for a child. Elizabeth had been unable to become pregnant and bear a child. Unable that is until God sent His angel messenger to tell Zechariah that his prayer would be answered. And it was. Difficult for Zechariah to believe. Like us, we might pray and then fail to expect to see the prayer answered⸺even in ways greater than we imagine. But God fulfills his promises and this promise had been made through the prophet Malachi some 430 years before its fulfillment. Malachi 4:5-6. It was not long before Elizabeth conceived the baby to be John the Baptizer.