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The Bible teaches us about prayer in various ways: direct instruction, command, parables, and even example. It is helpful to consider the prayers of the Bible to help shape our own prayers, but it is equally helpful to consider some of the requests for prayer to help guide our own prayer requests. Most Christians appear prone to request prayer for physical, material matters, but considering Paul’s requests for prayer in the New Testament shows us a far greater variety.

The text before us this morning (2 Thessalonians 3:1–5) is one place in which Paul specifically requests prayer. But it is not the only place. This morning, I want to consider this and other texts to help us see the kinds of things for which Paul requested prayer.

Before we jump into the requests themselves, it is instructive to observe that Paul did, in fact, request prayer. He did not feel as if he could go it alone. He recognised his need for God and, therefore, his need for the people of God. While he displayed a vibrant prayer life, he also saw tremendous value in asking others to pray for him. And he believed in the power of prayer. As he said to the Philippians, “I know this will lead to my salvation through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19).

This is a lesson we do well to learn. There are plenty of opportunities in the context of the church to ask others to pray for us. There are times in our context (Sunday evenings, elders’ meetings, etc.) in which specific calls go out for prayer requests. The most natural context for requesting prayer is perhaps the context of relationship. Whatever the context in which you are responding, consider some broad categories of things for which Paul requested prayer and allow these categories to shape your own requests for prayer.

First, Paul’s requests were frequently gospel driven. In our text, he requested prayer “for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2). He considered the prayers of the saints to be a means of working with him in his ministry (Romans 15:30). God is pleased when our prayer requests are gospel driven: prayer for the salvation of family, friends, colleagues; prayer for opportunities to be a gospel witness; etc.

Second, Paul’s requests were frequently geared at serving the church. To the Romans, he wrote, “Pray that … my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, and that, by God’s will, I may come to you with joy and be refreshed together with you” (Romans 15:31–32). For Paul, serving and fellowship with the church were a high priority and he often requested prayer to do this in a way that was “acceptable” and helpful to the churches he wanted to serve. He coveted prayer as much for giving as for receiving.

We are geared to ask for things that will benefit us, but God is pleased when we are as concerned about finding ways to serve others as we are about being served.

Third, Paul often requested deliverance from those who would hinder his ministry. He wished to be “delivered from … unbelievers” (Romans 15:31) and to be “delivered from wicked and evil men” (2 Thessalonians 3:2). While he understandably wished to be delivered from affliction, his greater concern was that nothing would prevent his ministry from benefiting others. He did not primarily ask for prayer for his enemies to be judged (though there certainly is a place for imprecatory prayers) but prayed to be delivered from those who would seek to harm him so that his ministry would in no way be hindered.

Fourth, Paul asked for prayer to obey God’s will. He asked the Romans to pray that he would work “by God’s will” (Romans 15:32). Jesus taught his disciples to pray “your will be done” (Matthew 6:10) and Paul asked for prayer for this to be realised. He was less concerned about having his way done and more about God’s will being done in and through his life and ministry.

As you meditate on 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5 this morning, ask God that your prayer requests will honour him by aligning with the things that he wants for his people.