Prayers of the Apostle Paul
(Commentary + Life Application)
compiled by Greg Williamson (c) 2019

  • ACTS
  • ROM
  • 1-2 COR
  • EPH
  • PHIL
  • COL
  • 1-2 THESS
  • 1-2 TIM
  • PHM
• Acts 13:2-3 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 14:23 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 16:25 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 20:36-38 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 21:5-6 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 22:17-21 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 28:7-10 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 1:8-10 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 8:26 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 10:1 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 12:12 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 15:30-33 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Cor 7:5 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Cor 11:4-6, 13 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Cor 14:13-15 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Cor 1:11 - Comm + Life App
2 Cor 9:14-15 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Cor 13:7-9 - Comm + Life App
• Eph 1:15-19 - Comm + Life App
• Eph 6:18-20 - Comm + Life App
• Phil 1:3-5 - Comm + Life App
• Phil 1:9-10 - Comm + Life App
• Phil 1:19 - Comm + Life App
• Phil 4:6-7 - Comm + Life App
• Col 1:3-4 - Comm + Life App
• Col 1:9-10 - Comm + Life App
• Col 4:2-4 - Comm + Life App
• Col 4:12-13 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Thes 1:2-3 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Thess 3:9-10 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Thess 5:16-18, 25 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Thess 1:11-12 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Thess 3:1-2 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Tim 2:1-2 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Tim 2:8 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Tim 4:3-5 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Tim 5:5 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Tim 1:3-4 - Comm + Life App
• Phm 1:4-7 - Comm + Life App
• Phm 1:22 - Comm + Life App


2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

2 Thessalonians 1:11
"With this in mind," literally, "to this end" (eis ho), namely, the Coming and its outcome in the lives of believers, "we constantly pray for you." This assurance of prayer for the Thessalonians is the other side of the missionaries' confidence that at the Coming the Thessalonians would prove to be the crown in which they would glory in the presence of the Lord (1 Thess. 2:19). As often, the conjunction hina introduces both the content and the purpose of the twofold prayer (cf. 1 Thess. 4:1; for a similar effect with the infinitive, see 1 Thess. 2:12): First, "that our God may count you worthy of his calling." The only assessment of our lives that matters in the end is God's, and it will rest on what we have made of our lives (or on what we have allowed him to make of them; see disc. on 1 Thess. 5:23). "Calling" (klēsis) generally refers to the initial act whereby God calls us to himself, but the question raised by this petition is, What sort of Christians have we now become? Have we "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13)? Have we, in terms of Paul's metaphor, built upon the foundation which is Christ (1 Cor. 3:11)? The fundamental question for Christians is: "Since everything will be destroyed …, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives," says Peter, answering his own question, "as you look forward to the day" (2 Pet. 3:11f.). Paul agrees, hence this prayer for his readers. Most of the calls to holiness in the NT are made in the light of the coming judgment. For Christians this will not be a matter of life or death (they have already been acquitted on the capital charge -- justified), but it will entail an assessment of how they have done and will have a bearing on their future glory (see disc. on 1 Thess. 2:4 for the judgment of those who believe, and on 1 Thess. 3:13 and 5:23 for the Parousia as an incentive to holiness; see further Williams, Promise, pp. 93–96). This prayer exhorts the Thessalonians to live lives worthy of their calling (cf. Eph. 4:1).

Second, Paul prays "that by" God's "power, he may fulfill every good purpose … and every act prompted by your faith." Nothing in the Greek corresponds to "of yours" as found in NIV. It is possible then, that the good purpose is not the Thessalonians', but God's, as in Philippians 2:13. But NIV is probably correct in its interpretation. The expression is literally, "good pleasure of goodness." Morris notes that the noun "goodness" (agathosynē) is never used of God elsewhere in the NT, and Milligan adds that it would be more natural to have the article before "good pleasure" (eudokia), if Paul were referring to God's purpose. But even allowing that "every good purpose" is the Thessalonians', clearly the inspiration is God's, and so Paul looks to God to complete their good intentions along with "every act prompted by (their) faith" (lit. "a work of faith"; see disc. on 1 Thess. 1:3 and, for faith, on 1 Thess. 3:2).

2 Thessalonians 1:12
The section ends with a partial return to the thought of [2 Thess 1:10]. The missionaries' prayer of the previous verse is to the end (hopos), says Paul, "that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you." The "name" signifies the person; the purpose of their prayer, then, is that the Lord Jesus himself may be glorified by the holy and godly lives of his people. The difference between this and [2 Thess 1:10] is that, where the latter refers to the Parousia, this concerns (typically of the NT) the present. Even now, despite the restriction of a mortal body and a hostile environment (cf. Rom. 8:22f.; 1 John 3:2), enough should be seen of Christ in us to redound to his glory and, in a secondary sense, to our own: "and you in him" ( -- should be, but is it?). Paul intends, however, not to emphasize our glorification as such, but rather to disclose what is ours in Christ (cf. John 17:10, 21–23). The final phrase leaves no doubt where Paul's emphasis lies. Even if in a reflected sense we have a glory, there is no room for self-satisfaction, for all that we have is "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." The NIV marginal reading, "Our God and Lord, Jesus Christ," is possible in terms of the Greek, where the one definite article governs both "God" and "Lord," but it is unlikely in terms of Paul's style. The one article should be seen rather as drawing the two persons of the Godhead together in the grace that has saved us (see disc. on 1 Thess. 1:1 and 1 Thess 5:28, and for the titles Lord and Christ, the note on 1 Thess. 1:1).

- David J. Williams [ref]

When Jesus comes, He will be glorified not among His saints -- but in them.

I venture to guess that none of us bought the latest Ladies Home Journal expecting to see our names on the "Ten Most Admired People" list. Nor did we buy the latest edition of Who's Who in America, eager to see our names inside. That's because this is not our day. This is the "day of man" (Job 10:5) -- "man" referring to fallen humanity. When Jesus returns, He will be glorified and admired in all who believe. This means we'll see Jesus in each other. "Wow, I thought you were a lightweight," we'll say; or, "I thought you were weird"; or, "I thought you were callous, cruel, pompous, or vain. Now look at you! I see Jesus in you!"

Oh, to have such a mind-set this side of eternity—to join Paul in "knowing no man after the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16), instead seeing Jesus glorified in His saints even now.

- Jon Courson [ref]

For those believers today who find themselves in circumstances similar (if not identical) to those of the Thessalonians -- that is, persecuted or afflicted for the sake of the gospel -- the application of [2 Thessalonians 1:1-12] is clear: Persevere in the face of this unjust treatment as a declaration of the fact that God is just and will vindicate his people. Such faithful endurance constitutes, Paul says, a clear "evidence" (2 Thess. 1:5) not only that God exists, but also that "[his] judgment is right" (2 Thess. 1:5) and that he himself "is just" (2 Thess. 1:6; cf. Rom. 3:25-26). As such, it constitutes a bold declaration that the persecutors are wrong and that they are hostile to God. Perseverance, in other words, becomes a form of proclaiming the truth about God.

What should those of us who are not experiencing persecution for the sake of the gospel do? To begin with, we have an obligation to pray for and encourage those who are being persecuted. In addition, we should protest against unjust treatment of our fellow believers. This will accomplish at least two things. (1) It potentially offers (in addition to prayer) a concrete means of encouraging our persecuted fellow believers. (2) Protesting against the unjust treatment of fellow believers is another way (in addition to perseverance) of declaring God's justice. Governments, nations, groups, or movements that persecute Christians are implicitly (if not explicitly) claiming the right to decide what justice means. But that is not the case; God is the one who defines what justice is. By protesting unjust actions directed toward Christians, we can remind whoever is responsible that they do not set the standard for justice and that God will hold them accountable for their injustices. In sum, if those who are persecuted declare God's justice by their perseverance, those who are not persecuted can proclaim God's justice by their protests against injustice.

How or in what way might we protest? (1) If the persecution is of believers in other countries, one way would be to adopt the model utilized by Amnesty International and groups that supported Soviet Jews prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. This involves identifying specific believers who are being persecuted and regularly writing letters on their behalf to leaders, representatives, and embassies of the responsible national government.

(2) We can lobby international organizations that distribute aid or financial resources to countries that persecute Christians to issue on a regular basis reports about the human rights conditions (with special reference to religious rights) in the countries they serve.

(3) We can lobby our own government to pay more attention to the plight of persecuted believers in other countries.

(4) We can raise the question of whether we are trading the religious rights and freedom of persecuted brothers and sisters in other countries for economic or national security considerations. At present, for example, there is in the United States a considerable debate about whether to link human rights issues to trade and economic issues in our relations with China. One side of the debate argues that the United States should not jeopardize its economic well-being by allowing human rights issues to interfere with free trade and commerce. But as believers we should at least raise the question of whether such an approach involves the trading of the religious rights of fellow believers for our own economic advantage.

If the persecution is national or local rather than international, similar strategies (appropriately modified) can be utilized. Instead of writing or protesting to foreign governments, one might need, for example, to write the local school board to protest discriminatory policies against Christian students who wish to meet or gather for prayer or Bible study before or after school. The circumstances and situation might vary, but the principle remains the same.

- Michael W. Holmes [ref]


2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

2 Thessalonians 3:1–2
Finally (to loipon, see disc. on 1 Thess. 4:1) signals the nearness of the end of the letter, although this does not prevent Paul from touching on other matters. It means only that he has dealt with what he regards as the most important matter of the letter (see disc. on 1 Thess. 5:25 for both the tense of the verb, proseuchomai, "to pray," and the address, "brothers"). He requests prayer first that "the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored." "The message" is literally "the word" and signifies the gospel of which God is the author -- the "Lord" of this reference (see disc. on 1 Thess. 1:5 and 8, and note on 1 Thess. 1:1). Paul characteristically requests prayer for the progress of the gospel (cf. Eph. 6:19f.; Col. 4:3f.), expressed here in terms of its "running" (so the Greek, trechō). The idea goes back to Psalm 147:15 where God's word "runs swiftly" (cf. Ps. 19:4f.), but the metaphor would have appealed to Paul as one who often drew on the images of the Greek games to make his point (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24; Gal. 2:2; Phil. 2:16 for reference to himself as running). The notion that the word almost has a life of its own such that it could "run" through the world is reminiscent of Acts 18:5, where Paul is said to have been "seized by the word" (so the Greek). It implies a certain independence of the message; in another sense, however, it is dependent on the messenger to be heard (see disc. on 1 Thess. 1:8 for the gospel "sounding out" like a trumpet call). Perhaps the games are still in mind, with reference now to the spectators and their appreciation of a race well run, when he states as the second objective of this prayer that the message should be honored (doxazō). In effect, this is a prayer for the people involved with the word, for in large measure, it will be honored only as it is reflected in the lives of those who preach it and hear it (cf. Acts 13:48). It was so honored by the Thessalonians, although it is not clear from the Greek, which lacks a verb (NIV has supplied "was"), whether Paul's reference is to the past -- to the time when the missionaries first preached the message in Thessalonica, as NIV implies -- or to the present. The absence of the verb may be deliberate to allow for both (but cf. 2 Thess 2:5 and 1 Thess. 1:5ff.; 2:1, 13 where he does look back to the Thessalonians' reception of the gospel when they were there).

Paul's second prayer request is for himself and his colleagues that "we may be delivered from wicked and evil men." For the verb rhyomai, see the discussion on 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and for a similar reference to the dangers that he faced, cf. Romans 15:31. He was writing from Corinth (as we suppose; see Introduction on The Authenticity of 1 Thessalonians) where, clearly, he was facing many difficulties of which Acts tells us little. But what little it does tell may be taken as typical. This would suggest that Paul's greatest danger was from the Jews (cf. Acts 18:12f.). His use of the definite article suggests that he had in mind a particular group of people such as the Jews. He wanted deliverance from the "wicked and evil men." Moreover, the tense of the verb (aorist) may point to a particular need for deliverance, such as the one referred to in Acts. The word translated "wicked" (atopos) means literally "out of place," hence "improper," and then the sense that we have here. This passage is the only place in the NT where it is used of people. Elsewhere it describes things (Luke 23:41; Acts 25:5; 28:6). The second adjective, ponēros, describes those who not simply acquiesce in evil, but actively pursue it. If the reference is to the Jews, it is not, of course, to the Jews per se, but to them as those who oppose the gospel, hindering it in running its course into all the world. This thought leads to the general observation that "not everyone has faith" -- the Jews (if the earlier reference was to them) are not on their own in opposing the gospel. It is not clear in what sense "faith" should be understood, whether subjectively as trust, or objectively as the body of teaching (see disc. on 1 Thess. 3:2). The use of the definite article (in the Greek but not evident in NIV) would suggest the latter, but the idea of trust fits more easily with the next verse -- "not everyone trusts the Lord, but the Lord is trustworthy." In any case, it is only a fine line between faith and the faith. The general sense is plain enough: not everyone accepts the Christian position.

- David J. Williams [ref]

Beneath the surface of the routine of daily life, a fierce struggle between invisible spiritual powers rages. Our main defense is prayer that God will protect us from the evil one and the he will strengthen us. We will need the full armor of God as we face spiritual attacks and we will be attacked, for Christians are Satan's prime targets, his avowed enemies.

The following guidelines can help you prepare for and survive satanic attacks:

• Take the threat of spiritual attack seriously.
• Pray for strength and help from God.
• Study the Bible to recognize Satan's style and tactics.
• Memorize Scripture so it will be a source of help no matter where you are.
• Associate with those who speak the truth.
• Practice what you are taught by spiritual leaders.

- Bruce B. Barton, Linda Taylor, Neil Wilson, and David R. Veerman [ref]

As he brings his second Thessalonian letter to a close, Paul says, "Pray for us." Notice that he doesn't say, "Pray for our programs." He doesn't say, "Pray for our projects." He says, "Pray for our preaching."

Last century, God did a mighty work in London through a giant of the faith named Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His sermons are studied to this day. The story is told that one Sunday afternoon, a contingency of ministers came to the massive Metropolitan Tabernacle to observe him. Assuming the stout man at the side of the building wearing bib overalls to be the janitor, they asked, "Sir, would you kindly show us the power plant of this huge structure?"

"Certainly," the man replied, leading them to the basement.

As he opened the door at the end of a hallway, the ministers expected to see a mighty furnace. Instead, they saw over two hundred men on their knees praying for the upcoming evening service.

"Prayer, gentlemen," he said, "is the power plant of the Metropolitan Tabernacle."

The man -- Spurgeon himself -- knew where the power lay.

Secondly, Paul asks that the Thessalonians pray that he would be delivered from "unreasonable" -- or, as your margin renders it -- "absurd" men. Who were these "absurd men"? Acts 17:5 describes them as "lewd fellows of the baser sort" who tried to get Paul in political hot water by saying he advocated Caesar's overthrow.

Was Paul preaching that there was another King besides Caesar? Certainly. He served the King of kings, Jesus Christ. He also argued that men were to be submitted to those in authority over them (Romans 13:1).

"Thou shalt not bear false witness," God declared in the ninth commandment (Exodus 20:16). These "absurd men" provide a classic example of what it means to bear false witness. You see, telling a lie is not the only way we bear false witness. We bear false witness whenever we simply misrepresent the truth.

How do I know this? There is another incident in the Word where we see false witnesses -- at the trial of Jesus Christ.

"Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; but found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days" (Matthew 26:59–61).

While Jesus had indeed said, "Destroy this temple and in three days, I'll rise again" (John 2:19) He was speaking of the temple of His own body. So, too, Paul preached the Lordship of Christ, but also that we should submit to earthly authority. In both cases, false witnesses gave the right information, but with the wrong implication.

Notice Paul doesn't say he wants to debate the false witnesses. Rather, he simply asks to be delivered from them. Gang, there are those who will twist what you say to their own end. What are you to do? Do what Paul did. Don't complain. Don't explain. Instead, pray that God will take care of them in His time, and in His way because if you start defending yourself, you'll never stop.

A man and his son in need of money decided to sell their donkey at the marketplace. The townspeople shook their heads in disgust that the man would make his son walk while he rode the donkey. After hearing the criticism, the man quickly dismounted, and his son got on in his place. As they walked a little farther, they again heard the townspeople murmur, "How could that son be so disrespectful as to make his father walk while he rides the donkey?"

The man then joined his son astride the donkey, only to hear the townspeople down the road say, "How cruel of those two to ride that poor little donkey!" In response, both father and son dismounted the donkey and walked farther, amidst criticism that they were fools for failing to utilize their donkey.

At last, in desperation, the father and son picked the donkey up, and carried it the rest of the way.

Try to defend yourself, and, like the poor man and his son, you'll find yourself carrying a heavy burden. Instead, do what Paul did. Leave your defense to the Lord.

- Jon Courson [ref]


NOTE: All material is quoted verbatim. Most of the material in the COMMENTARY section is taken from one of the top Bible commentaries as listed at