Description / Transcription
Let’s ask for the Lord’s help as we come to His word. Oh, great God of highest heaven, you who live among the cherubim and seraphim, you who sit enthroned above, you who dwell in unapproachable light, draw near to us as we draw near to you. Condescend, we pray, and speak to us. Stoop down to our lowly ears that all who are of humble heart may receive your word. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our text this morning comes from 2 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians Chapter 3. We have come to the end of this short, five-week series on these prayers from Paul in 1&2 Thessalonians and next week, Lord willing, we begin a series, probably a lengthy series through the gospel according to John. This morning we come to verses 1-5 of 2 Thessalonians Chapter 3.
“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
We have been talking for the last month about a church to be thankful for and we have been looking at Paul’s prayers and noticing what is he grateful for in the Thessalonian church. What does a healthy church therefore look like? What is a good church? What should we hope that Christ Covenant is known for? We saw week one he was thankful for the character of the people. Week two he was thankful for their confidence in the Word. Week three he was thankful for the strength of their community, and last week we saw gratitude that they had clarity on their identity. Character, confidence, community, clarity. Wow. Four C’s.
It does make us stop and think, “What do I give thanks for?” What do you give thanks for in your prayers?
This is a quite from D.A. Carson in his book Praying with Paul, which I commend to you. He says, “We say grace at meals, thanking God for our food. We give thanks when we receive material blessings, when the mortgage we’ve applied for comes through, or when we first turn on the ignition in a car we’ve just purchased. We may sigh a prayer of sweaty thanks after a near-miss on the highway. We may utter a prayer of sincere and fervent thanks when we recover from serious illness. We may actually offer brief thanksgiving when we hear that someone we know has recently been converted. But by and large, our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately.”
I find that very challenging. “The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value.” It shows our priorities. It shows where are heart is at.
We need to be steeped in the Bible if we are to give good, rich, deep, Bible prayers. Some of us may rarely offer up prayers of thanksgiving. We may be so quickly moved to pray for the laundry list of that day’s needs or maybe even intercede for others that we don’t stop to thank God for giving us another day of our daily bread. And for others, even though we often give thanks to God, what we offer is, if we’re honest, rarely the sort of thing that Paul has commended to us. I find it challenging in my own life. Are these the things I’m day after day thanking God for? He’s thanking them for the faith, hope, and love of God’s people. He’s thanking them for the reception of the word. He’s thanking God that they are standing firm in the faith. He’s thanking God that they’re living out their true identity in Christ.
Left to ourselves, our list of prayers and, indeed, our thanksgiving in prayer, usually boils down to jobs and health. And please don’t misunderstand me. You should pray for those things. God said cast all your cares upon Him so the last thing we want is you leave here and you say “Pastor told me don’t pray for sick people anymore.” Absolutely we should pray for health, and I do often. But, but, God wants our prayer life, my prayer life, your prayer life, to be much richer and fuller than merely a hospital list. Think about it this way, if all of your prayers came true this week, who would be converted? Whose marriage would be restored? What great gospel advance might there be? What missionaries would be sent out? Often, if all of our prayers came true this week, then the hospitals would be empty. And that might be good, maybe not for the doctors, but for the rest of us.
What do you give thanks for week by week, day by day? If we only pray for health, if we only give thanks for health, then we’re not any different than any of our other neighbors. Do you have any of your non-Christian friends or family who don’t want good health? Who aren’t somewhat thankful when somebody who was ill that they love now got better? That’s a very human thing. And, of course, we pray for it and God tells us to. No shame in that. But that must be all we pray for, all we give thanks for.
And so Paul has given for us a model. Not just how to pray, but what to pray for. And it’s really a chance to hold up the word of God as a mirror into our lives and say, “Okay, what are my priorities? What are the things that really make me excited each day?” And I say, “oh, thank God, you answered this prayer.”
Now this prayer, in Chapter 3, is a little different. It is not, strictly speaking, a prayer of thanksgiving. The other prayers just say “we always give thanks to you” or “we ought to give thanks for you” and he’s clearly thanking God for something in the Thessalonians. Instead, this is a request for prayer from the people and then a prayer for the people. So by inference, I think we can say that a church to be thankful for is one in which the people are praying for each other. You could make that point from any of the passages we’ve looked at, but this on in particular because Paul is going to ask for their prayers and then in verse 5 he is going to conclude with a final prayer for them. A church that prays for each other.
Now notice I did not say a church with people who say that they are praying for each other. That is very easy to do, and haven’t you been convicted once or twice? I have. “I’ll pray for you.” Whoop! It’s gone. It’s forgotten as soon as you walk away. Or you say later “oh, really, how’s that going? Oh, you’ve been in our prayers.” Really? It used to be that people would just say “well, you’re in our thoughts and prayers” and now you see secular people, you know, they’ll say “well, let’s keep them in our thoughts.” Can’t even mention prayer, as if the thoughts are just meh meh meh meh meh, “You’re in there. I’m thinking things about you.”
But sometimes we’re not much better as Christians. And we just so easily say “I’m praying for you.” So I’ve had to discipline myself. If I’m going to do it, maybe stop right there. “How about I pray for you right now?” or I send an e-mail “I just prayed for you” because it’s so easy to say we pray and not really pray. In a healthy church, we are often praying for each other. When? In our private prayers.
I remember a famous line from D. A. Carson he said about his father that he never put anyone down except on his prayer list. That’s a pretty good idea.
We’re praying around the dinner table. Are you praying in your community groups and Sunday school, in your small groups? There should be prayer from the pulpit. There should be prayer when we disperse here later with sometimes heads quietly bowed or a hand on the shoulder or a hug or in the pew or in the lobby or jotting down a note so you can pray during the week. We ought to be praying for one another over the phone, by e-mail, by text. You ought to be praying walking around your neighborhood, on your knees, standing up, lying in bed, praying for one another.
I’m so thankful for all the ways I have already seen that this church is a praying church, and you just need to know one of my prayers and hopes is that I would grow in prayer, you would grow in prayer, and that we would become to be known as a great praying congregation.
In particular, in these verses, we see the pastor praying for the people. We can put Paul and his apostolic ministry and that sort of slot as a pastor. And then we see the pastor asking the people to pray for him.
It was so nice as we’ve been visiting all of the communities and inevitably people ask “how can we pray for you?” and I know that you’re praying for us. And today in one of the communities we got a basket of Ebenezer stones with the names of our kids and people from the community who are praying for them. And I know so many others of you, I’m so impressed you know the names of my kids when I don’t even know the names of my children. And you’re praying for them. And you know their birthdays, and you know all these things about. We so appreciate that. I know that you love to pray and we want to grow in prayer.
So really two big points this morning. You need to pray for your pastors, and your pastors need to pray for you. And I want to spend most of the time on that first point. You need to pray for your pastors.
Look at verse 1. Isn’t that instructive? Even the mighty apostle Paul asked for prayer. “Finally, brothers,” I’m coming to the end of the letter. He says now, “Here’s one of the last things I want to tell you. Please, would you pray for us?” If anyone you’d think wouldn’t need to say this, it would be Paul. He’s the one who led them to faith in Christ. He’s the one who’s writing our Bible. This is the apostle Paul, for crying out loud, and he says to these Thessalonians, who are Christians just for a few months, we figure, and he says to them, “I need you to pray for me.”
Paul often talked like this.
Romans 15:30: “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.”
2 Corinthians 1:11: “You also must help us by prayer.” Do you know how much of a help you are in the ministry by prayer. Only heaven knows how many dumb things the Lord has kept me from by all the people praying for me.
Philemon 22: “Prepare a guest room for me,” Paul says, “for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.”
If you are in a position of spiritual leadership, and let’s just let you define that however broadly you want to, not just pastors here but could be elders, could be small group leaders, could be college discipleship, could be the head of your household, could be an Anchor study, whatever kind of spiritual leadership instruction. I hope you realize it is important not only that you model praying for them, but that you give others the privilege of praying for you.
It was several years ago, in the church that I came from there was a prayer chain just like you would have some kind of prayer chain go out. And I think in ten years there I had never put out a request to pray for me. I would see them come and I would often write a quick e-mail, “thank you for this, I just said a prayer for you,” and they would come multiple times a week, you know, prayer requests from the church. And then my dad, who was here a few weeks ago, he was very sick. He was to the point of death, we thought he was going to die. He was traveling overseas as he’s done for years and years and years, working with missionary radio, and one of his trips to Africa he had contracted cerebral malaria. And he came back and we thought he had the flu. He was very sick. I remember he came to our kids’ Christmas program and he was just, he was shivering and he had all these coats on and he was shivering cold inside and he was just kind of spacy and out of it, and we just thought, “wow, dad is really not doing well.” And he finally went to the doctor, and my brother, who’s also a doctor probably saved his life, and told my mom “When he goes to the doctor, you need to tell him where he was just traveling,” because they’re not going to think to check for cerebral malaria. And so sure enough he had this and he, he went into a kind of like a coma. He was completely out of it. They had to fly in an experimental drug from the CDC in Atlanta up to Grand Rapids to give to him and then he had bleeding on the brain. I remember driving down to see him, just thinking for sure I was going to get there and my dad was going to be, was going to be gone. And then he came out of that surgery and for a few days you thought “is my dad going to be like a 5-year-old for the rest of his life?” And he just amazingly made a full recovery. It doesn’t always happen, but it did.
I tell you that story because in the midst of that was, somewhat to my shame I say this, was the first time… Now I had in small groups and elders’ meetings ask for prayer, but this was the first time I put out to the whole congregation “would you pray for me?” And I had so many people say “Pastor, thank you. We want to pray for you. We want to know what’s going on in your life. Thank you so much for letting us know how we can pray.” Of course, I don’t say that so that pastors take advantage of it or just look it, but sometimes when we’re in positions of spiritual leadership, we think that the grace only flows one way, it’s so nice that you’re getting all these things from us and we’re doing some good teaching, and you’re getting these blessings, and the love and the prayer… Well, it’s a two-way street, for sure. And we as pastors desperately need your prayers. And sometimes we can be tempted to think that we just give and we don’t need to receive. We’re used to answering requests of others that sometimes we forget how to ask for help ourselves.
One of the sweetest things I ever hear in pastoral ministry is to stand at the back and shake hands and have a dear saint look me in the eye and say, “Pastor, I pray for you every day,” or “Pastor,” I’ll even take almost every day, or often, or sometimes when I think of it, but you’re praying. And I can tell, they look me in the eye, that they mean it with all their heart and it means so much to me to know that you’re praying. I need your prayers. The pastors need your prayers. We need you. I need you. Those people are my heroes. And don’t think that God’s done with you, that you, well, your health isn’t so strong, and maybe you can’t do the things that you once did… You can pray. You can pray. What greater help is there in ministry than that you can pray?
What do you pray for? We saw earlier in this series 12 commitments of the pastor to his people and that makes a good prayer list. But I want you to notice specifically here two explicit prayer requests that the apostle Paul makes. The first request concerns the Word of God. You see “Finally, brothers, pray for us that’, that’s the word in English, the Greek word is “hina” which is “in order that” or “so that,” it’s a purpose clause, so “Finally, brothers, pray for us.” And here’s request number one: “In order that the Word of the Lord would speed ahead.”
And remember just last week, if you flip back a page to verse 13, we talked about election. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you brothers, beloved by the Lord, because God chose you.” God chose you, the doctrine of divine election, sovereign grace in salvation. Now notice here Paul does not think that the doctrine of election somehow means that missions and evangelism are unnecessary or that prayer is superfluous; that’s often been a slander against Reformed theology, that a strong belief in divine sovereignty is going to undermine prayerfulness and missions and evangelism. It’s actually just the opposite. We can be courageous and confident in missions and evangelism and in prayer because we know that it depends on God and not on us. Why did Paul say he was staying in Corinth in Acts Chapter 18 when he wanted to go? He stayed because he knew that the Lord still had some people in the city. God still has work to do. “May the Word speed forward.” That’s Paul’s prayer.
Psalm 147:15: “He sends out his command to the earth. His Word runs swiftly.”
We saw in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1 the Word ringing out, now we see the Word running forth. “Pray for me,” Paul say, “that the Word would speed ahead and be honored.” Because we know that the gospel is not always honored. We see here later “not all have faith.” We see it in Corinth that the gospel to many people was foolishness. We saw in Athens as they mocked on and said “who is this babbler?”
But the picture here that Paul gives for our prayers is that of the Word running a race, winning the prize, receiving the glory that it deserves. You see the Word to be honored and you see a little footnote, or glorified. May the Word receive its weightiness, its due reception. The picture is probably of a runner in a race.
I know all of you have been glued to the television and to your phones to watch the World Track and Field championships. I know you have. I made the mistake of asking around the office this week, “Are you guys, did you just see that?” “See what?” “People running.” “Why would I watch that?” Well, it was fascinating to me. It was always my dream to be one of those people, and I never was close to having that dream come true, but I still love to watch it. And I love to watch the mid-distance or the long-distance races where you have somebody and it’s kind of a cat-and-mouse game going around the track, and who’s going to set the pace, and who’s got the kick at the end, and sometimes you have someone who is leading and looks so far out in front, looked unbeatable, and somebody was hanging back and they get to the last bell lap and they burst around everyone, just waiting there, knowing that in the end they had the strength and the speed and the stamina to win. That was always my dream, that I could just run there and I just know “I’m faster, I’m faster.” But it turns out I just knew “I’m skinnier, but okay, not making it.”
So I saw some of those, and I couldn’t help but think of that, here with this analogy of the Word speeding ahead, running ahead, being honored, may even be thinking of these famous Isthmian Games that they had in Greece, kind of a precursor to the modern Olympic Games. That the Word of God may look like it’s being lapped by the field at times. And you may even look in your family and say “the Word of God is not winning this race.” You may look in the culture, you may look in your own heart, and say “the Word of the Lord? This is a jogger amidst sprinters. The Word of the Lord is not making any headway.” And yet, and yet Paul says you pray because you just watch, and you watch what’s going to happen, and you watch what will happen at the end of the age when the Word of God which seemed to be falling off the pace has all the strength and the stamina to win the prize and claim the victory. Would you pray for it, Paul says.
Just when you think that’ll never work, the Word will never work, Paul reminds the Thessalonians at the end of verse 2 “as happened among you.” It did work for you, right? So the next time you think, “Really? Sharing the gospel? Really? Praying for the Word? People are so hard-hearted. That doesn’t work.” Well, you’re a Christian, right? It worked for you. You say, “well, I grew up in a Christian home and I had good parents.” You still had a sinful heart that had to be overcome. You’re all walking miracles. A miracle every bit as great as the resurrection, that God brought dead people back to life.
I remember an exercise in one of my seminary classes. We had to go around the room and we had to complete this sentence: “I put my faith in Jesus Christ when ___” and then finish it. And most of the people were like me, “when my parents led me to faith,” or “I grew up in a Christian home,” but to go around the room and hear a number that weren’t like this. One guy, I’ll never forget, said “I put my faith in Christ when a man came up to me in 7/11 and shared with me the gospel.” I think, “that doesn’t work. Really?”
I have a good friend in ministry who I’ve heard him tell his testimony a number of times and he says that a guy came up to him on the football team when he was in high school and just said “Um, hey man, I gotta share the gospel with you sometime. Do you want to do that now or do you want to do it sometime later? Cuz it’s gonna happen, I’m just gonna share the gospel. You can pick the time, but I gotta do that sometime.”
Do you believe that works? That God still saves people? Would you pray that the Word of God would speed ahead. Paul says it happened to you, Thessalonians, you were pagans, you were idolaters, and now you’re Christians.
Pray for your pastors, Christ Covenant, pray that we would handle the Word of the Lord faithfully. That I and the other pastors would preach it boldly and effectively with unction from the Holy Spirit. Pray for the Word to win the victory, to overcome doubt and disbelief. Pray for regeneration. Pray for strengthening. Pray that today every Sunday would be the day of salvation for someone. Pray for revival. Pray for a narrative of surprising conversions. Pray for the preaching of God’s Word to do more than we could ask or imagine. You don’t have to come and pray that the Word of God would come alive to people. It is alive, we pray for dead people to have ears to hear it. Pray it. Pray for us, Paul says, that the Word would speed ahead.
And then here’s his second request. You can see it as he goes on. “And,” verse 2, “that,” there’s another hina clause in the Greek, purpose clause, “so that,” second request, “we may be delivered.” Delivered from what? “From wicked and evil men.” The word there for wicked men is an interesting word in the Greek. They’re all interesting, right? It’s the word “atopos.” You think of our English word topography, that has to do with land, or topos is a word for place. Atopos, “a” is a prefix that negates a word usually in Greek, so “atopos” means “not in place” or “out of place.” It’s a strange word. And you can translate it “wicked,” that’s a good translation. But many scholars think it has the sense of someone within the community who isn’t really a part of the community. Save me from atopos, people who are looking like Christians but they are really out of place. They’re wicked. They’re evil. They’re unbelieving. Paul probably has in mind false teachers within a church. False teachers and those who give in to persecution and aren’t steadfast. Those who succumb to false teaching. He’s likely thinking of opposition even from within the church. We must all have our eyes open, not in a spirit of judgmentalism but just to search and try our own hearts, to know that everywhere where God’s people gather, especially in a room this size, there will be people who have the mistaken idea that they are Christians and yet they are not. They are atopos, they are out of place. But they need to be brought to a place of repentance. And it may be the experience of some of your kids here, or maybe some of you even. Maybe it was your experience in years gone by of going to church, church, church, church, and then at some point you realize “I’ve heard this a thousand times and now it’s like I’ve heard it for the very first time,” and then God does something amazing in your heart.
We are not going to be a church that is having the Word speed forth from our midst unless we are a church full of people who really, truly cherish the Word.
Greg Beale in his commentary says “nothing can blunt a church’s effectiveness at spreading the gospel more than having a church filled with people who are not really Christians.”
“Deliver me,” Paul says, “from imposters. Deliver me from false teachers. Deliver me from cowards. Deliver me from those who would oppose me, wicked and evil men.”
And let me just add this as well, and this may not be exactly what Paul has in mind, but I think it’s a fair inference. When you pray for your pastors, would you pray that we be delivered not only from wicked and evil men out there, but that we be delivered from ourselves? I’m sure that one of the prayers we all pray too infrequently is the prayer Jesus taught us to pray “lead us not into temptation.” And you only have to pay a little attention to see a too-long list of brothers in the ministry who have fallen by the wayside.
So we need your prayers. We need your prayers to protect us perhaps most of all from our own sinful nature that still rears its ugly head. I often say to people, and I don’t mean it tongue in cheek, I mean it very seriously, you want to know the person who’s the biggest, my biggest problem in ministry? You want to know who that person is? And all of you are saying “mmm, maybe, I’m not sure.” It’s me. It’s me. It’s my own sins, it’s my own fears, it’s my own rebellion against the Lord. It’s all of that. Your biggest problem in life is you. It is. My biggest problem is me. So when you pray for your pastors, you need to pray not just for outward success or for people to treat us well and for opponents to fall, but you need to pray for our own sanctification, our own holiness. I never get offended when someone says “Pastor, I’m praying for your humility, I’m praying for your holiness.” I think “thank you.” I need that. We all need that.
I remember very well growing up, when my pastor, he preached what seemed to me to be an especially powerful message. He just seemed unusually passionate in the pulpit. Almost to the point of tears, it seemed like, and he was praying with great fervency, almost begging people, almost angry with people, just asking them to pray for him. I remember that very well because it seemed so fervent, passionate. And then it was some months later that it came out that he had a very serious sinful struggle with several different kinds of addiction and he has since been restored and serving the Lord, but that’s why he was praying so fervently, asking people so boldly.
You need to pray for your pastors. You need to pray for us that the Lord would keep us and guard us and the more that any of us do for the Lord, you know, the bigger target we become for the enemy, and so it’s no surprise that Satan loves to take down pastors, that he loves to take down any one of you that will be so bold as to speak God’s Word to others. So pray that God would protect us not just from evil men out there, but even from our own selves. Pray for the Word that it would not be hindered by outsiders or insiders or by the messengers themselves. You have a crucial part to play in prayer.
I love the way John Stott put it. He usually puts it so well. He said there are four groups that participate in mission. One, those who declare the message; two, those who respond in faith to the message; three, those who reject the message; and four, those who are praying for the message to go forth.
So we all have a part to play in this great gospel ministry. And when they reject the messengers if they are faithful, it is because they reject the message. And you need to keep that in mind as some of you, I’m sure, have very, very wounded hearts as you think about people you’ve shared the gospel with, with all earnestness, with all pleading, and they stiff-arm in your face, and they may even say nasty things about you to your face or behind your back. And you need to remember that at the very heart of it, at the very heart of it, is a rejection of Christ and the good news of the gospel. And so it’s very hard to carry on when we face that, but we must.
I remember a pastor telling me earlier in ministry, he says “you know, when you’re in the foxhole and somebody pops up and shoots at you, you don’t stand up and say was it something I said?” You understand it comes with the territory, and you try your best not to take it personally.
To understand, as Ephesians 6 tells us that we’re are not ultimately in a battle against flesh and blood, but against powers and spirits and principalities and the evil one himself. So this must happen with prayer. The human heart is not overcome with gimmicks and gadgets and cheap tricks. It is only conquered by the Word of God in prayer. And so we must be a praying people.
And then here’s the second point, much more quickly. Your pastors need to pray for you. Your pastors need to pray for you.
Look at what Paul prays in verse 5: “May the Lord direct your hearts.” Now I like that right there: ”Direct your hearts.” It’s a good reminder. We can so easily deal only with bodily concerns, or behavioral problems. That person has a sick body, we want to get better. That person is doing something wrong, we want them to stop. And forget that at the heart of any kind of discipleship, with your kids, with a small group, with an entire church, it’s about getting to the heart.
Paul says “may the Lord direct your hearts to” what? Two things. To the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. Those two things always go together. Don’t let anybody separate them. Don’t let people say, “well, you’re the grace Christians or you’re the truth Christians.” Or, “are you into grace or are you into truth?” Well, the Son of God came from the Father full of grace and truth, and so we want our hearts to be directed toward the love of God, the love he has for us, the love we have in him, the love we have through him, and the steadfastness of Christ. That’s what Paul’s been talking about in these two letters. You have opposition. You have false teachers. You have persecution. You have assaults. You have affliction. And I want you to stand fast, not capitulate, not give in to cowardice. I want you to stand fast in the truth of the gospel that you have received.
So we pray for you. That you would be a people firm in faith and full of love. Moved by human need and unmoved by cultural pressures. That you would walk with God and you’d walk with his Word. That’s the prayer.
I’ve entitled this message “The Lord’s Faithfulness and Ours.” And you see that in verses 3 and 4: “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you.” That’s the Lord’s faithfulness. And then our faithfulness. Paul says “we have confidence in the Lord about you. That you are doing and will do the things that we command.” The Lord’s faithfulness and ours. It could really be a title for this whole series, because a church to be thankful for is one where we are thankful to do what God commands of us knowing that he will always be faithful to do what he has promised for us.
You see the harsh reality at the end of verse 2: “For not all have faith.” Paul was never a cynic, but he was a realist. He prays for the Word to go forward. He says “pray with me, let’s get this Word out, speed, let’s see victory, great gospel triumph.” But let me tell you, he says, not everyone’s going to believe it. And when Paul went into a town in Acts, you know this, the one thing that didn’t happen is that people just sat there and got bored and said “that’s a nice message.” They said “that is absolutely mind-blowing, earth-shattering, life changing, I need that” or they said “you’re crazy, I hate you, get out of our city.” Not much middle ground.
Paul says not all have faith, but then don’t you love verse 3? “Nevertheless, the Lord is faithful, so I’m confident in you”, Paul says.
And you need to know, as your pastor for all of five Sundays now, I’m confident in you. I’m confident in you not because of, you know, the nice clothes you can put on for Sunday, or the places you can live, or the places you go, or the houses you live in, or where you’ve been. I’m confident in you because of what I see of the Spirit’s work in you, evident in this place for years and decades, through many faithful pastors. And as much as I have confidence in you, much more importantly we have confidence in the Lord. That is so good to know that we’re not just in this by ourselves, in this whole thing with a world to be won for Christ, with all the hurts and the pain and the issues that you come with, and probably your own family. Isn’t it wonderful to know that the Lord is really with us? That when we pray, he actually hears us. The God of the universe who made heaven and earth hears you, me. Now don’t your prayers… My prayers, I don’t feel like pray big mighty prayers. I feel like they go woooo, woooo. That’s what they all feel like. They don’t, they don’t burst up into heaven like a rocket, they just sort of fall to the ground and you think “well, what’s happening there?” Isn’t it good to know that you have a pretty good prayer warrior interceding for you at the right hand of God the Father Almighty? Or the Son, sometimes described that the Spirit is as well, interceding, saying to the Father, “Listen to their prayers. I know they’re struggling prayers. I know they’re sleepy prayers sometimes. I know they are distracted prayers. But listen to their prayers because they pray in my name, in my blood, for my sake.”
Let us be a people who believe with all heart that God listens and loves to answer prayer. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. So let’s preach, and let’s pray with all our heart, and then let’s give thanks for all that our faithful God will do.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, what a mercy that you tell us, command us, to pray. To ask. To give thanks. To cast our cares upon you. Probably every one of us in this room wishes that we would pray more or pray better or pray more disciplined or more fervently. It’s a hard thing for humans to pray, so help us. And give us confidence that you love to hear us pray, weak little prayers, struggling prayers, anxious prayers, and that you listen. And that you, Lord of all the earth, will be faithful. You will be faithful and just to forgive us our sins, to hear our prayers, and we know that the judge of all the earth will only and ever do what is right. And so we rest in you and trust in you and ask that you would help us to be faithful as we know that you will always be faithful to us. We give thanks in Jesus’ name. Amen.