2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
Paul was a member of the most elite Christian missions team ever. But he was concerned that people wouldn't pray for them. I understand how this can happen. This may sound strange, but I have a dear colleague in ministry who I so deeply respected that I never prayed for him. Never even thought about it. In my mind he was the epitome of a servant of Christ, and everything a pastor should be.
The fact that I had never prayed for him struck me as he confidentially shared some deep struggles he was experiencing. I so respected him that I guess I thought he would be able to handle any problem that came his way. I suddenly realized how foolish I was to think there is any human on this earth who doesn't experience potentially overwhelming personal struggles.
If the Apostle Paul needed prayer, as he revealed in this verse, then I expect we all need prayer. Those who are the deepest into the spiritual battle-lines are our “go to” friends for leadership in our own struggles... but we must also be sensitive to their personal struggles. Paul's prayer request gives us insight into how we should pray.
Paul wanted the "word of the Lord" to "have free course.” Paul’s life was committed to the propagation of God’s word, and his desire was that it would run freely throughout that generation. Some might think his successes would insulate him from discouragement, but it really works the opposite. Success can magnify our failures, or cause us to doubt ourselves when things slow.
He wanted God's Word to “be glorified” in the lives of the hearers. Simply put, Paul wanted to see lives deeply changed by the Word of God. Even though this is God's work, it can be a deep source of comfort or discouragement in heart of Christ's servants. We want our lives and words to count.
It seems to me, from the language in verse two, that Paul was in conflict with people who professed to be believers, but were really unconverted… lost… professing a faith they didn't possess. But it could have been a catchall word for all unbelievers, both in and out of the church.
Paul said these people were unreasonable, wicked, and without faith. These are intense words of resistance to the work of Christ's ministry. The level of this resistance seems to rise and fall, but it is always present in some form. The times of great opposition and defection, which Paul seemed to have been experiencing, can become trying and profoundly difficult. If Paul had been married with children the difficulty would have touched them too. Don't forget to pray for the spouses and children of those you respect.
Put all three of these together and you have a ministry team under great assault. They needed prayer, and so do ministry teams around the world today. If you think they are “spiritual giants” that is all the more reason to pray, because they, too, have personal and ministry struggles to overcome. May God give them grace to stand. I have prayed for a number of friends today who I deeply respect and admire, and I haven't forgotten their spouses and children.