“In order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:12
Prayers that Paul prayed for the churches and co-workers who were recipients of his epistles reveal a great deal about the nature of prayer and God’s desire for us. They are also guidelines by which we can learn to pray more effectively. In this tenth devotional reflection of the series we get fresh insight into the ultimate purpose of intercessory prayer.
Many of our public prayers are quite general as we pray for God’s blessings or for those in crisis, for our city and nation and for leaders without specifically stating how we want God to bless or what we want Him to actually do. Our private praying is often dominated by intercession for others with special needs in which we ask God to comfort, heal or guide them. But do we ever think through these petitions as to why we are asking God to bless someone, heal the sick or reveal His will in a certain situation?
Paul expressed a lot of specific prayers, but in this passage he says, “To this end also we pray for you always” (2 Thess. 1:11). He then goes on to identify three objectives and an over-arching result of his intercession regardless of the specific focus on his prayer. He wanted God to answer his prayer, to respond to his intercession, to meet the need of his readers (1) that God would count them worthy of His calling, (2) that they would fulfill God’s desire for goodness, and (3) in their lives would be manifested the work of faith with power.
But the ultimate purpose for which we want our prayers answered is not for our needs and those of others to be met; it is “in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified” (verse 12). That is why it is perfectly okay to be equivocal in our prayers. Paul was; he prayed whether he lived or died, it didn’t really matter as long as Christ was glorified. Whether he was hungry or content, incarcerated or set free, the greater objective was God’s glory and will being done.
That doesn’t contradict petition for specific answers and for God to act on our behalf, but the object should not be about us, our family and friends being blessed, comforted, healed and our needs being met. The result should be becoming worthy of our calling as a child of God; it should be reflecting the goodness and character, even in suffering and need, that would honor God. Finally, God is glorified when the faith of the one for whom we are praying is so strengthened that they can become a vessel of God’s power.
Don’t miss the final implication that it is only “the grace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 12)” that enables Jesus to be glorified in us and us in Him. We are to put feet to our prayers, but the answers come from God. Seeing an explicit need is one thing, but whether or not answered prayer makes us more worthy of God’s calling, grows us in goodness and holiness of character and makes us a channel of God’s power is the added grace upon grace that comes from Him.
Dr. Jerry Rankin served as president of the International Mission Board from June 1993 to July 2010 and blogs at The Rankin File.