"Pray for the Church"

Preached by on August 6, 2017
— From the series,

When you pray for this congregation, what do you pray for? Paul prayed for the church in Thessalonica that they would stay strong in love and holiness until the coming of the Lord.

Pray for the Church

(1 Thes. 3:11-13)

 

Intro:

A.  Most Christians I know pray.  Many Christians say the feel like prayer is one spiritual discipline in which they would like to grow.  So many people use prayer when times are difficult, when loved ones are hurting, and when consequences to our own actions are painful.

B.  One of the issues about prayer that James tells us is our selfishness that can found in prayer (James 4:2-3).  Most people pray for the physical – for themselves, or in great love for others who face trials, difficulties or illness.  When you examine the prayers in the Bible you find that many recorded prayers were for more spiritual issues in the lives of people than physical issues.

C.  When you examine Paul’s view of prayer, you often see him praying for churches that he helped to start that they would stay strong.  In a day and age where Christianity was new, Paul feared some of these Christians might not be able to face the trials of their faith and stand strong.  He was concerned that whole churches might have died spiritually because of the spiritual persecution they faced, so he prayed.

D.  I can see Paul humbling himself before God in the morning and evening, down on the ground, wrapped in a prayer shawl coming before God asking God to fill those new Christians with the power of the Holy Spirit and to keep them strong and growing.  One such prayer is what was read to us just a few moments ago.  Let’s examine the three statements of Paul’s prayer.

 

I.  Fellowship

A.  READ verse 11.  Earlier in this letter (2:18) we read that Paul wanted to come to them, but Satan had hindered him from doing so.  Paul has been encouraged by Timothy’s report, but his desire is to personally come to this congregation and continue to teach them.  So he prays that God would direct their way back, clear a way for him to go.

B.  I will always be a proponent of Christian assembly.  Churches define that as the four formal hours that the church building is used during the week.  But I am proponent of Christian fellowship because I know the value of assembling with other Christians.  I personally gain from small group studies, social gatherings, as well as the larger assemblies like this one.  Paul understood the need to be together.

C.  Paul wants God to be the one to direct his path.  So he seeks God to remove any obstacles, realizing that if it is not God’s will to open that door, he would not force himself through it.  But prayer is opening our heart to God, and Paul’s heart wants to go back.

D.  We will see the need to Christian fellowship throughout the rest of this letter and the next.  In chapter 4 Paul would tell them, “encourage one another with these words.”  In chapter 5 he would write, “encourage and build one another up, just as you are doing.”  The Hebrew writer makes a similar plea in Heb. 10:24-25.

E.  When you pray for this church family, pray that God will use YOU to encourage, strengthen, serve, and build up this body.  Pray that we as church will value times of fellowship, study, worship.  Keep on praying like Paul.

 

II.  Increasing Love

A.  So Paul prays that he could travel to see them, and the second thing he prays for is that God would make their love for one another and all abound whether they were able to come back or not.

B.  Paul uses two words to describe what he is asking God to do with the love these Christians have.  They are “increase” and “abound/overflow.”  You can never have too much love for others.  You might express is poorly, you might interpret love as tolerating or accepting sin (which is wrong), but genuine Christian love can never be taken to excess.  It is something we continue to increase as we use share it.

C.  Listen to Gal. 6:10.  Do good is an action of love.  It putting love visibly before others because of the love that has been shown to you.

D.  But I want you to see that Paul prays their love as church would increase to fellow Christians and to all people.  Love is not intended to be kept just within the family of God..

E.  The power of the story of the Good Samaritan is that his man showed kindness to a man who probably would not have showed kindness to him.  Love is not seen when you love the lovable.  Love is seen when you love the unlovable.  Forgiveness is not seen when forgive nice people, forgiveness is seen you forgive the one who least deserves it.  If you want to see Paul’s prayer in example then go a passage we often read at communion (READ Rom. 5:7-8).

 

III.  May God Strengthen YOU

A.  Paul make one more plea in his prayer for the church (READ verse 13).

B.  Let’s start at the beginning of this verse.  God is the one who strengthens you to holiness.  I fall short of God’s holiness, but that doesn’t mean I fall short of God’s grace.  God takes the sinner like me and established me.  The literal meaning of this phrase is “to make your hearts strong.”

C.  As God works to make me strong, He does so, so that I will be perfect and holy when Jesus comes again.  Let me tell you, God wants you saved.  God wants to give you every opportunity grow, and God himself will help you.

D.  As a Christian in the flesh you still have temptations and spiritual failures, but God steps in to your life and takes your faith and your repentance and credits it to you has righteousness.  In this way, when Jesus comes again, you will stand before the Father as perfect and holy because you belong to Him.

 

Conclusion:

A.  I am so thankful that you pray.  I love that our prayer list is desired and people want us to pray for them.  But let’s not forget to pray for us a church family.  Pray that we grow in our desire to fellowship, grow in our actions of love, and grow in our walk with Lord as we look forward to spending eternity with him.