Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, to pray continually.
God wants this for our lives.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul writes that he thanks God for their willingness to receive the word of God.
He emphasizes that the word of God is not a human creation.
I will be reflecting upon prayer in addition to my other study for the next 21 days.
My sense is that on some level I don’t believe that it makes a difference, or that my motivation is selfish, or that there’s some other block which makes me behave as though I believe that my prayers useless.
One powerful challenge is when people who are nonbelievers get through difficult times and say, “I did it, and I didn’t pray!” This is a valid criticism.
Coupled with the times that people do sincerely pray and don’t get the answer they are seeking, it makes prayer seem to me more like wishful thinking than anything more.
As I was putting my kids down to bed tonight, and I began to pray silently for each of them, Paul’s words in Ephesians 6 came to mind:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (v. 12, NIV).
I believe that
many most people feel a sense of struggle and concern for themselves and their loved ones. This can be true of spiritual believers and nonbelievers alike.
Maybe the thing holding me back from praying more often is my focus on specific issues and not the bigger picture of evil (or lack of wisdom) in our world.
If I really believed in the existence of ”the rulers,” ”the authorities,” ”the powers of this dark world”, and ”the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” that Paul writes about, then I think I would “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NASB, cf. Ephesians 6:18).
So ultimately, do I really believe in this stuff Paul is writing about, or do I believe that the world no longer has room for such superstitions?
I want to say that I really believe Paul, but my prayer life as I observe it today indicates otherwise.
Chapter Analysis of I Thessalonians 1
|vv.1-3||We [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] remember you fondly in our prayers|
|vv.4-10||You [Thessalonian Church] are a model of what it means to be Christ’s Church|
|(vs) Observation||(vs) Question & Answer||(vs) Cross-References|
|(1) Typical greeting||(1) Does Paul share authorship in any of his other letters? Yes.||(1) I Corinthians w/ Sosthenes; II Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon w/ Timothy; II Thessalonians, like I Thessalonians, also w/ Silas and Timothy; Galatians w/ “all the brothers with me” (v.2)|
|(2) Paul prays regularly for the churches he’s planted|
|(3) Faith –> Work
Love –> Labor
Hope –> Endurance
|(3) What’s the difference between work and labor?|
|(4) Paul “knows” the Thessalonians have been chosen by God||(4) How does Paul know this? What evidence does he provide? See (5)’s observation.|
|(5) The Thessalonians’ response to the gospel included power, the Holy Spirit, and deep conviciton|
|(6) By responding to severe suffering with the Holy Spirit’s joy, the Thessalonians imitated Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Christ||(6) How do Christians today receive this supernatual joy of the Holy Spirit?||(6) II Corinthians 6:4-10 The Holy Spirit often acts in times of great distress|
|(7,8) The Thessalonians are a model to believers throughout Greece||(7,8) What qualifies a church to be a model to believers throughout Monroe County today?||(7,8) Matthew 16:15-18 The church is built upon Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus
Ephesians 2:19-22 Jesus is the church’s chief cornerstone; its foundation is made of apostles and prophets.
NIV Study Bible note on Ephesians 2:22: “The church is to be a people or community in whom the Holy Spirit dwells” (p.1794).
|(9) Other Grecian believers are well aware of the Thessalonians’ success||(9) Is reputation among other churches still a reasonable measure of the health of a congregation? Only with respect to Paul’s analysis of the Thessalonian church in vv.5-6,9-10|
|(10) Thessalonians wait for Jesus||(10) How does a person wait for Jesus? Negative Example: Waiting for Godot|
Greek ekklesia: “church, congregation, assembly; a group of people gathered together. It can refer to the OT assembly of believers (Ac 7:38), or a riotous mob (Ac 19:32), but usually to a Christian assembly, a church, as a totality (Eph 3:10), or in a specific locale (Col. 4:15). In the NT a church is never a building or meeting place” (emphasis mine). (Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Greek to English Dictionary and Index: 1711)
Overview of I Thessalonians
|Chapter 1||Way to go, Thessalonians!|
|Chapter 2||I’m OK [Paul], You’re OK [Thessalonian Church]|
|Chapter 3||Live Life with Godly Restraint|
|Chapter 4A||Timothy’s Visit and Good Report|
|Chapters 4B-5A||Meet the Lord in the Air, Who Cares When?|
|Chapter 5B||Paul’s Fortune Cookie Christian Thoughts|
Silas (I’m especially intrigued by Silas. Who is he? How did he get involed with both Paul and Peter’s mnistries? Why and how did Silas end up with Peter after Paul, not before? The book of Acts emphasizes their ministries in opposite this chronological order.)
Thessalonica: 200,000 residents, capital city of Rome’s Macedonian province, excellent natural harbor, on an important trade route
Paul had planted a church in Thessalonica that experienced amazing initial growth. After he left, Jews and Gentiles bad-mouthed Paul. Additionally, the Thessalonian Church was worried about believers who died before the Day of the Lord. Paul wrote in response to these points of confusion.
Live like the Lord may come today, even though he might wait until you’re long “asleep” [dead]
Thessalonian Church, continue to be a model to believers everywhere!
Key Verse and Application
I Thessalonians 5:15 “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but try to be kind to one another and to everyone else” (NIV).
I take a “get even” approach to life. Jesus says to “turn the other cheek.” I don’t do this consistently. I justify my sinful responses by saying, “It’s their fault. They provoked this response in me.” I don’t want to “pay back wrong for wrong.” Often, the other person’s “wrong” against me is only in my imagination anyway.
The next time I feel the urge to “pay back wrong” I’ll pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene.
eschatology–”[Wrong] attitudes have been encouraged by the separation of eschatology from the rest of Christian life and doctrine. If the ‘last things’ have been occurring since Jesus’ time, they must be far more relevant to the main themes of Christian activity and thought” (p. 436, Holmann Bible Dictionary).