A Contrasting Prayer for a Church

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I wrote this in 2019 as we were uniting two church bodies into one. I wrote that it’s appropriate to look at the prayers like the one that Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church in today’s Bible reading*.

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you. And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we do for you. May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 3:11–13 CSB

I don’t know about you, but Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians doesn’t sound like most prayers for churches that I’ve heard. Most prayers for churches I’ve heard are focused on “buildings, budgets, and butts in seats”.

James is right when he says, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2–3 CSB)

Could it be that we’re praying for the wrong things?

This may be a bit of an overstatement, but the reason we don’t see the kinds of churches today that we see in the New Testament is because we’re praying different prayers! Instead, we ask with wrong motives for some of the right things, and we don’t pray for many of the right things.


I must pause here. I just complained about what others pray for their churches. The application here isn’t for those other people. The application is for you. The application is for me.

When was the last time you prayed that the Lord would cause you and your church to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone? When was the last time you prayed for your church’s holiness? That you be blameless?

Unless and until we pray the kinds of prayers that the Apostles prayed for the First Century churches, we won’t see the First Century kinds of churches in the 21st Century.

* Today we are reading 1 Thessalonians 3.

This devotional was originally published on November 15, 2019.

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