Prayer and meditation on the word of God are vital to our spiritual walk, yet both are neglected the most. Some give time to prayer but not so much on the word, and others read and meditate on the word but devote little time on prayer. So as we end this year, let us be reminded that if we are to stand firm on the gospel, and so walk in a manner worthy of it, we must not separate our devotion to prayer and the meditation of the word, because God works in us through the word and by the power of the Holy Spirit. My aim today is to give you some foundations and motivations to pray without ceasing and to meditate on, be satisfied with God’s word day and night.
Now my main point is that prayer and the meditation of the word must go together. Separating the two will result either in unbiblical, and worldly prayers, or in faulty understanding of the word or begrudging obedience to it. Now let’s look at 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; 3:1-5 and see if prayer and the word really goes together. Notice that in verses 13-17 of chapter 2 there are two duties here. In verse 13 Paul said, “we ought always to give thanks to God for you”. That’s a kind of prayer, a thanksgiving prayer. By implication we too must always thank God. This is a kind of ought that can never be done begrudgingly, because there’s no such thing as begrudging gratitude. Then in verse 15 the second duty is that we should stand firm and hold to the traditions of the spoken and written words of the apostles. Notice that sandwiched between this two imperatives is the grounds. It is not an accident that the reason for prayer and standing firm or holding to the word(ie. meditation) is the same thing. Namely God’s sovereign election in verses 13-14. So we can paraphrase it this way, always thank God in prayer because He graciously chose us for salvation through the work of the Spirit in the gospel, therefore we ought to stand firm in the gospel which is contained in the traditions or teachings of the apostles.
We can say then that prayer corresponds to our reliance on the sanctifying work of the Spirit and meditation corresponds to reliance on the truth of the word. I say this because according to the last part of verse 13 we are saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. Take note also that after the command to stand firm, Paul immediately followed it with a prayer in verses 16-17 for God to comfort their hearts and establish them in every good work and word. Every good work definitely includes standing firm in the gospel. What’s the implication then? The Spirit only works through the word, and the word will have its effects only by the work of the Spirit. So we are to rely on the Spirit through prayer but at the same time we must stand firm and hold onto the word and the great motivation is that God will graciously help us because He chose us.
Lastly, the reason I think prayer and meditation on the word goes together because Paul himself covets the prayer of the Thessalonians for the effectiveness of the word, that is, the triumphant advancement of the gospel. In 3:1 Paul said, “pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread quickly and be glorified.” So even Paul needed others to pray for him. Not just the word that he preached but really pray for him, the messenger of the word. The word will be honored only, if and only if the Spirit would work in and through the preached word, and Paul knew this reality. In 3:2 Paul also asked that they, the messengers, may be delivered from the wicked and evil men. Which implies that apart from the sanctifying work of the Spirit mentioned in 2:13-14 they will not receive and believe the gospel. That’s why the first reason that he gave for praying for the messenger of the word is that not all have faith. But then he gave a positive reason for praying for them in 3:3. Namely that the Lord is faithful. Notice the play on words there. In 3:2 the reason is that not all have faith, but in 3:3 the Lord is faithful. Paul is highlighting again the faithful grace and mercy of God to those whom God chosen for salvation. He will establish and protect them from evil. That is is why the only logical conclusion in 3:4-5 is confidence in the Lord. Not in Paul’s eloquence, and not even in their own abilities, but in the Lord. Now as if it weren’t enough, Paul prayed for them again in 3:5 that the Lord may direct their hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
This is my prayer and hope this coming year, that we will become a people increasingly becoming more devoted to prayer and the word. And I’m encouraging and admonishing every one of us to pray this very petition that the Lord may direct our hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ and that is by clinging onto the gospel. Like Paul, pray for me also as I will pray for you to stand firm in the gospel.