Category Archives: Prayer

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Partnership in prayer

“Now may the Lord direct your hearts toward the love of God and the endurance of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5


Paul has commenced the letter to the Thessalonians with great encouraging words about their progress in the gospel and he then prayed for their continued faith in the Lord. In chapter 2, he assured them not to be distressed by the current state of affairs but remember that Jesus is Lord and his second coming will not go unmissed. He prayed for them again that they would be encouraged and stand firm in the faith. Paul’s’ concern has been for the Thessalonians to not waver from the message that they received from Paul about the gospel and to make that their comfort and their strength.



  • 1-2 Pray for Paul and co.
  • 3-4 Trust the Lord
  • 5 Prayer for them

1-2 Pray for Paul and co.

“Finally, pray for us” Paul has more to say in the letter but this ‘finally’ (ESV) signals that he has covered the main concern and purpose of his letter. He has prayed for them and prays for them always (1:11). Now he looks for reciprical love. He has been calling them brothers (and sisters) throughout the letter (1:3, 2:1, 2:13) and this emphasises the equality which he views between him and the Thessalonian converts.

“…that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly…” Above health and safety comes the priority for the gospel message to be spread. It is a general prayer in that he doesn’t pray for a particular town or region or person. Yet it is specific because it is about the only message that saves continuing to spread. Again, this is a prayer which calls on God to fulfill his plans and promises. Jesus said that the gospel must go out to the ends of the earth. This reminds us to focus our prayers on the things which God has taught us to pray for. Prayer is calling on the Lord to do his will.

It’s also a specific prayer in that it is for Paul and his partners to be freed to take the gospel far without delay.

“…that the message of the Lord…be honoured, just as it was with you.” Paul is asking for the gospel to find happy recipients. This is the positive side of the prayer. As if to say, if it is God’s will, we desire to take the gospel straight to those who will receive it well and believe without experiencing delay from those who will only reject it anyway. Paul is hoping that Thessalonians will want others to receive the gospel just as they have. That leads us to the other side of the prayer…

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people…” The word delivered is related to ‘saved’. Paul desires to avoid hangups from people who only wish to cause trouble. Paul is realistic, though, and knows from experience that there will be wicked and evil people that need to be held back through prayer.

“For not everyone has faith.” Nor will everyone believe the gospel. Jesus said, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matt 7:13). He also said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19:23). But…some people will have faith!

3-4 Trust the Lord

“But the Lord is faithful…” Although many will not have faith to trust God, the Thessalonians have no reason to. God is faithful. He does not save through the gospel only to give up on those he has called. So, trust the Lord.

“…he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” Now the promise here is protection from the evil one. It is possible that “wicked and evil people” (3:2) cause delay or harm but those who have “honoured” the gospel will be protected from the evil one, namely Satan. It is those who believe the lie who stand condemned but God will hold the believer in their belief. Predestination is a comfort to those who believe but not to those who will not.

“We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.” Paul cannot guarantee that their gospel mission will go uncontended but he is certain that the Thessalonians will remain in the faith. What is Paul’s command? To stand firm and hold fast to the teachings passed on to them (2:15) and then…(see verse 5 below)

5 Pray for them

“May the Lord…” Paul articulates his prayer and therefore his desire for the Thessalonians.

“…direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” How beautiful is this prayer! Where your heart is, there is your treasure. Paul desires for the Thessalonians to treasure the love that God has and the work that Christ has done. It is a prayer overflowing with grace. Paul wants the church to grow deeper in the conviction of what God has done. It is God who loves and therefore sends the Son to redeem. It is the Son (Christ) who loves the Father without fault or failing. He remains faithful even when we do not. The phrase ‘Christ’s perseverance’ describes the endurance that Christ showed or is showing. It is both a celebration of the righteousness of Christ as well as the primary example for the Thessalonians to remain faithful even under trial and persecution.


What is of utmost importance is that the gospel be honoured in our lives. It must be spread regardless of possible hostility. It provides assurance and comfort to those who believe. It is to be our treasure. We are to uphold one another in prayer for the sake of the gospel.


  • Paul desired the gospel to spread rapidly. Is this a desire for us? In what way do we seek for the gospel to be passed on? Is ‘rapid’ a word you could use of yourself or the church?
  • Pray for missionaries. Paul requested prayer as he desired to take the gospel abroad and be unhindered in doing that. Talk about the missionaries that we support as a church and how we can be praying for them. Spend time in prayer.
  • Paul promised protection from the evil one and prayed for the hearts of the believers to be oriented toward God. Are you conscious of the spiritual battle and our need to pray for one another in this manner? Paul doesn’t need to ask the Thessalonians for prayer points when he decides to pray for them.

Prayer of the Week

Heavenly Father, we pray for the gospel to go out into all the world. Both at home and abroad, would you hold back wicked and evil people and keep your servants faithful to the gospel. May we all direct our hearts to your love and the work of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Acts 12:1-24 – The church must be out of its mind to pray! (v5,9,15)


The book of Acts is attempting to describe the spread of the good news that Jesus is Lord. The expansion of the gospel is taking place in many directions now, in Jerusalem and surrounding towns, to the north of Jerusalem as far now as Antioch, and to the south-west where Philip had baptised an Ethiopian.

The story has bounced between Peter’s experiences and Saul’s experiences. We return to Jerusalem now and to Peter and the others. There has been a great explosion of faith since Acts 2 but also scattering of believers through persecution. Jerusalem was experiencing a time of strengthening and peace and growth (Acts 9:31). But then King Herod acts. This is the Herod who had arrested and beheaded John the Baptist. In Mark 14:1-12 we learn that Herod was aware of prophets and their public influence. We also learn that he is influenced by the whims of the people and of the moment.



  • 1-5 Herod’s attack and the church’s defence
  • 6-11 Peter is rescued by God’s messenger
  • 12-17 The church is astonished
  • 18-19 Herod executes his own soldiers
  • 19-24 Herod is executed by God’s messenger

1-5 Herod’s attack and the church’s defence

“who belonged to the church…” Once the followers of Jesus were called disciples, then believers, then people of “The Way”, and then Christians. Now, they are recognised as the church. This word means “gathering” or “assembly” or “congregation”. Many will use it to describe a building used for religion but it is undeniably used here to refer to the people gathering together for a common purpose. It is used as a synonym for all the previous titles given to the followers of Christ.

“Herod” – This is Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. See ‘Context’ for more.

“Persecute” – The greek says something like: to mistreat in the hands of Herod. As the mistreatment of is aimed at the church, ie, a specific people group, it is persecution.

“James, the brother of John” – these are the two sons of Zebedee, disciples of Jesus. At the end of this narrative, another James, probably the brother of Jesus, is told of Peter’s rescue. This second James is likely the writer of the epistle by the same name.

“…death with the sword…approval among the Jews.” Most of the Jews who had turned to Christ had been scattered out of the area under Saul’s persecution. While there was peace in Jerusalem post Saul’s conversion, apparently many Jews still viewed the Christian church as a nuisance and abomination. Herod’s dislike or hate for the church was embraced by the Jews. The approval encouraged Herod to arrest Peter, the leader of the church.

“Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.” The Festival of Unleavened Bread is a seven day annual event amongst the Jews in preparation for the Passover. Both festivals are memorial celebrations of the Exodus, especially the night when God passed over all the houses marked by blood. This was the same festival coinciding with Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. Jesus had told Peter that he would die a similar death (John 21:18019). Perhaps Peter felt like this was the moment!

“…but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” This was the church’s line of defense – to take their concern to God and plead with Him to intervene. Against a King who has successfully executed one believer and assigned 16 soldiers to guard Peter, the church prays. Perhaps Herod conceived a remote possibility that the church would muster a rescue plan by force? But he did not expect a rescue mission from the Almighty!

It must be noted that the church prayed ‘earnestly’. I wonder if there really is a different type of prayer? Of course you can say that you’ll pray and you can throw a light-hearted suggestion to God for something (like someone to believe, healing to happen, peace to be reached). But if it’s not earnest prayer, is it actually prayer? Of course I need to answer yes. Prayer is prayer whether it is described as earnest or casual. These are just adjectives. But this verse describes the focus of their gathering – they desired for God to help Peter in some way. They prayed deliberately, decidedly, thoughtfully, intentionally. The actual word here means: eagerly, fervently, constantly. They were still together at the end of the rescue – still in prayer! (v12) And the answer to their prayers even took them by surprise! It is so good when God answers our prayers so vividly. And it is a shame that we don’t pray like this. Individually and as a body of believers, it would be good to cultivate our prayer habits.

6-11 Peter is rescued by God’s messenger

“Then Peter came to himself…” The account of Peter’s rescue is mixed with physical action and mystical illusion. On the one hand, Peter is physically struck by the angel in order to get him to wake up, he is ordered to dress himself and chains and doors are removed or opened. On the other hand, Peter doesn’t feel like it is really happening, the guards are mysteriously avoided, doors and chains are dealt with magically and the rescuer is an angel. It all happens, in Peter’s mind, as if it is a dream or a vision. But when he comes his senses, he sees that this has actually happened. God has answered the prayers of the church and intervened miraculously.

All of the intentions of the government and the religious enemy have been thwarted by God. Everything was stacked against Peter. But God was against the will of men in this instance.

12-17 The church is astonished

“John, also called Mark.” This new character becomes very significant in the early church and the work of God. He became a travelling partner with Saul and Barnabas (v25), he was a cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10), remained in service of the apostles and described as a son to Peter  (1 Peter 5:13). He is recognised as the writer of the gospel in connection with Peter.

“You’re out of your mind!” It’s amazing how Peter’s arrival was met with doubt. They had been praying for God to act but even this was beyond their expectations. The episode of the arrival of Peter is comical. But when they realised that Peter was saved, they celebrated and sent word to James to encourage and relieve him too. Our Christian growth will include a growing confidence in the ability of God to act. He will not always give us exactly what we ask, but when we pray fervently for things that God has promised to do, we must dismiss the temptation to doubt He can do it!

“It must be his angel.” This could be understood as Peter’s spirit (like Matthew 14:26) or as a guardian angel of Peter’s (see Matthew 18:10 and Hebrews 1:14).

“But Peter kept knocking” – He didn’t intend to go in and stay with the believers in Mark’s home since he immediately “left for another place” (v17). But he was intent on showing his brothers and sisters that he was alive and free and that James be told as well. Peter’s persistent knocking may remind us of the persistence needed sometimes in prayer. This is a shallow link, I know, but his unstopping approach is paralleled by the unstopping prayer of the church. It’s a small illustration of persistence when the initial prayers are not answered, don’t give up.

18-19 Herod executes his own soldiers

“no small commotion…thorough search…cross-examined…” The aftermath of the escape was extreme. With no answers found, Herod executes the guards. Perhaps his only explanation was that the guards were hiding the truth from him. How else could the escape be explained? It reminds me of when illnesses are mysteriously removed – unexpectedly – but doctors will just shrug their shoulders rather than concede that someone divine has intervened. Herod knew that the Christian church was surrounded by stories of miracles – even an empty tomb. But rather than examining the truth and conceding Jesus as Lord, he orders and execution on his own men.

19-24 Herod is executed by God’s messenger

“…because Herod did not give praise to God…” These verses describe the unique way that Herod the Tetrarch died. Although he was bringing a kind of unity in the region, according to these verses, he did not rebuke the people for praising him as a god. He had been exposed to enough of the work of God to know better and this was the final straw. A messenger of the Lord struck him down. He wasn’t instantly killed but bizarrely he was eaten by worms and died.

It’s a fitting conclusion to this section which began with Herod’s attack on the church. The church had prayed for the situation with Peter. Not only was the prayer answered by delivering Peter to freedom but it was further answered by delivering Herod over to death by worms!


The church might appear out of their mind to pray – but we would be out of our minds not to!


  1. Prayer of course! Prayer must be understood as a request or plea to the Almighty to take action. It is not a demand or a ‘name it and claim it’ practice. But neither is it a social pleasantry aimed at closing a Christian gathering or wishing someone good luck. When we pray, we enter the council of the Lord our God and we ask him to save, to restore, to renew, to protect or to reveal. Christians have turned their life to Christ and admit that God is supreme over their lives, which they are failing to live properly. Prayer is this faith speaking. The community of saints must be a community of prayers. If we are to be a “Christian community devoted to maturing in Jesus”, then let us devote ourselves to prayer!
  2. Reflect on your prayers and consider what you pray for. Do you bring to God the things that you believe he would want you to want?
  3. Pray for the persecuted church.,, and are three ways to be informed in your prayers – to pray specifically.

John 15:1-17 True Danger, True Disciple, True Love


Jesus is speaking alone with his eleven followers (Judas Iscariot has left the building). In chapter 14, he declared that if they love him, then they will keep his commands. The test of a follower appears to reside in listening and obeying – love in action. In chapter 15, Jesus fleshes this out some more to talk about how disciples are made, shaped and grown.

Read John 15:1-17


What it says over and over again:

Jesus is like a vine and we are like branches. Branches detached from the vine are only good for firewood. Branches connected will live, bear fruit, be cared for and will love the vine. We need to be and stay connected to Jesus.

Questions that arise:

What fruit does Jesus have in mind? What does the gardener’s pruning involve? How do you know if you are connected to Jesus or not? How real is Jesus offer to give us anything we ask? Is Jesus being clear or unclear? Is it possible to sum up Jesus’ teaching here so that we know for sure what he is saying? How can we take these words and live it? That is, how can I adopt these words beyond theory? How do they affect me?


  • 1-4 Jesus is the vine and the Father is the gardener
  • 5-10 Jesus is the vine and you are the branches
  • 11-17 Listen to why I have told you this

Notice that the NIV places the structure change at verse 9 probably picking up on the theme of love that runs through verses 9-15. But the information in verses 9 and 10 continues the theme of remaining in Jesus who remains in the Father. We could stick with the NIV structure; however, doing so seems to camouflage the impact of verse 11.

Verses 1-4:

‘I am the true vine…’ Jesus has not just invented a metaphor out of the blue. The image of the vine and the vineyard has strong Old Testament influences. The story of the vine is a story of the blessing and cursing of God. The following is only a sample of ‘vine’ passages from the bible…

Genesis 49:22 is the beginning of the blessings to Joseph. He is described as a vine and a fruitful one. It turns out that he is fruitful because of the hand of the Almighty, the Shepherd and Rock of Israel (24-26).

Searching through the bible for uses of the word ‘vine’ make it clear that having a healthy vineyard is a sign of God’s blessing. There are too many vineyard references to mention all of them. Going into the promised land, for example, promised the people healthy vineyards that produced good fruit. From Genesis to Joshua, the attention of the vine is quite literal – there will be good living in the promised land.

Psalm 80 describes the people of Israel as a vine that has been transplanted from Egypt, and cared for. The vine is now being used as a metaphore for the people of God. God is the gardener who will tear down the vine if it is not bearing fruit.

Psalm 105:33 describes the destruction of the vines as one sign of judgement.

Isaiah 3:14 again describes Israel as a vineyard whom the elders and leaders have ruined – they have not taken care of the vineyard.

Isaiah 5 contains, most applicably, a song about a vineyard. The whole chapter is worth reading as this is perhaps the height of the allusion that Jesus describes in John 15. Isaiah sees a whole vineyard which contains bad vines. Jesus sees just one vine – the true vine – a good and healthy vine which produces good branches and good fruit.

Ezekiel too uses the image of the vine to describe God and his people: Ezekiel 15 teaches us that even the precious vine will be thrown into the fire when it is detached – the people of God will receive God’s judgement for being a useless, dead vine. And Ezekiel 17 is a useful passage but not a good one to get bogged down in. It describes Israel again as a vine which has been taken away and yet a new seed will be planted which will produce a great tree – one that many people will come and take shelter in.

The story of the vine and the vineyard is one of blessing for the people of God who listen and love the LORD and a mark of judgement when they do not.

Zechariah 8:12 is one of many passages which promise again that the people of Israel will enjoy fruitful vines again when God restores his people.

The vineyard and the vine, therefore, are bound up with the promises of God to bless the people of God. Although Israel was described as the vineyard, they were unable to bear good fruit and so were torn down. When Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine,’ he is saying that he stands in the place of Israel to be what they failed to be. The rest of John 15 invites us to choose to join with Jesus or to stand alone. The invitation is clear and the consequences of refusing it is not hard to see either.

‘…my Father is the gardener.’ Insert this phrase into the discussion about the vine and you see that the Father of Jesus is the one who has been planting and transplanting and pruning and cutting throughout the Old Testament. The Father of Jesus, therefore, is the God of the Old Testament.

‘He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit…’ Verses 2-4 give a reminder of how important it is for vines to bear fruit. The gardener will ensure it bears fruit by pruning what is not working and to mould or encourage the plant in the right direction. In verse 2, the object of the pruning is really Jesus since he is the vine and the Father is the gardener who prunes the vine. Before we move on to verse 3, we can pause to realise that Jesus is involved deeply in the whole process of bearing fruit – even when it hurts.

‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.’ This line doesn’t quite fit the analogy of the vine. It fits more the scene in chapter 13 when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Our passage this week speaks of the words of Jesus in connection with being clean (v3) and of how Jesus is to remain in us (v7). Salvation from being cast aside by the Father’s wrath is by listening to Jesus and continuing to listen to him.

‘Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.’ We see that the disciples are now brought into the metaphor and the part they play is the branches of the vine. But no branch on its own is useful for anything. The vine is subject to the gardener and the branch must depend and be subject to the vine.

The warning in verses 1-4 are that the Father is actively clearing out the branches that do not bear fruit and the only way to bear fruit is to be attached to the vine and prepared for pruning by the Father. The gardener is only mentioned once but his reference makes the focus of this section.

Verses 5-10:

‘I am the vine; you are the branches.’ If verses 1-4 are about the gardener, these verses are about the branches. The attention in this section is on the branches and on how they can remain in the vine. Let’s list in bullet point what Jesus says in this section…

  • attached branches will bear fruit – these are healthy branches (v5)
  • unattached branches can do as much as a dead person can – nothing (v5)
  • dead branches are not left alone but are picked up and destroyed (v6)
  • Jesus remains in us by his word being in us (v7)
  • The prayers of a true disciple are heard and answered (v7)
  • The Father is glorified when we remain in Jesus and ask with his word in us (v8)
  • A disciple is known by these ingredients: listening to Jesus, and asking to bear good fruit (v8)
  • Jesus has loved us equal to the Father loving Jesus (v9)!
  • Remaining in Jesus is by keeping his commands (v10)
  • Thus, when we keep Jesus commands and listen to his words, we can ask and receive to the glory of the Father! (v10,7,8)
  • Jesus has shown us how this works by the way he remains in the Father and the Father in him (v10)
  • Remaining in Jesus and Jesus in us is about love (v10)

When the whole of the above is analysed we see that Jesus is describing a tight relationship between you and Jesus which can be seen between Jesus and the Father. What does Jesus want? For us to listen to him and follow.

When we pray with the expectation to receive, it is with the premise that we have Jesus words and command of love in our heart and mind. Rather than sounding like a loop-hole, it is the description of something running smoothly. Put the right ingredients into a cake and you can expect the goods. Why expect to get a good cake if you have made no effort to understand what makes a good cake? Perhaps a car is a better illustration…only the right fuel and oil, placed in the right spots will make a car move smoothly. Have no respect for a car and you can’t expect to win the Piston Cup! A father will grant his son anything he asks for when the son has come with wisdom and love! These are exactly the ingredients that Jesus asks us to have in prayer: wisdom (knowing Jesus) and love (following Jesus).

Verses 11-17:

‘…so that…your joy may be complete.’ Amazing! Outcome number one of remaining in the vine is so that we avoid the disaster of judgement. But the other outcome is more brilliant: our joy! Following Jesus is like hearing the end of a brilliant story, it makes sense and makes us glow. This joy is not the same as being continually happy, like a stupid clown. It is more like contentment. This is why words like joy, peace, rest and love are used by Jesus to describe the kingdom of God instead of words like anxiety, doubt, worry and war (of course Jesus does warn that our lives will not be all rosie because of him and that will be his topic next week – but there is a joy that can only come with the gospel so that life’s worries do not overcome us).

What I am saying is this: sticking with Jesus is not anti-human and weird. It is quite the opposite. Sticking with Jesus is the most human thing that a human can do.

‘My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.’ The only law that the Christian is to follow is the law of love. And the example of love is what Jesus has shown for us.

  • Let’s again list what is contained in verses 11-17:
  • Being a disciple of Jesus results in joy (v11)
  • If you want joy, listen to Jesus’ words (v11)
  • Jesus’ joy is in us also (v11)
  • We are commanded by Jesus to love (v12)
  • This is extreme love: to regard another persons’ life as more precious than yours (v13)
  • Those who listen to Jesus’ command to love are friends of Jesus (v14)
  • As friends of Jesus, we are treated to know everything Jesus knows about the Father (v15)
  • We don’t make friends with Jesus, he makes friends with us (v16)
  • We are chosen in order to bear fruit (v16)
  • We bear fruit that will last (forever) (v16)
  • The fruit that we bear is what we ask the Father to give (v16)
  • What Jesus commands us to do is to love (v17)

Having listed the promises and instructions, we might notice that the fruit we are to bear is the fruit of love.


Like a branch only has life when it is connected to the tree, our life only exists when we are connected to Jesus. This connection is by listening to his words, to follow his example of love and to ask the Father to give us hearts that will love. Jesus saves us from hell and he gives us the full joy of true life.


  • Seek Jesus. Life or death; heaven or hell; friend of Jesus or enemy with God – which would you choose and which have you chosen? There is no in-between option.
  • Follow Jesus. Remaining in Jesus is by listening to him, learning from him and requesting God to help us be more like him. Failing to do this makes it difficult to identify a person as a true disciple.
  • Pursue love. Jesus has given us a direct command here. We may well often ask ‘what does it mean to be a Christian’ but here is one clear path: we are to love. When we find it hard to love, the passage directs us to pray and ask God for it. What others need more than anything else in this world is to have their joy made complete and being grafted into the Jesus-vine. If our prayers for others are simply for good HSC results or healing from sickness, then we leave them as dead wood in the forest waiting to be burned. We who know the love of Jesus need to capture the same urgency that Jesus had for us and we must bring people to Jesus.


Father God, we ask in the name of Jesus that you will give us great love for the lost. For our neighbours, our families, our work colleagues, and all who you put in our path – give us hearts that will speak to them on your behalf. You have chosen all who will be your friends, please introduce us to them. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.