Scripture prayer 4: for deliverance
The Apostle Paul could write about hard times because he knew them up close and personal. When he wrote to the Thessalonian believers, he asked them for prayer. One element in this prayer request was that he be delivered from "...wicked and evil men" (2 Thessalonians 3:2). He added a parenthetical note: "For not all have faith". It was the recognition that God's people have been commissioned to live this life in a fallen and broken world. For us, two thousand years later, this means living in a secular world much like the one he faced. In a world like that opposition would be expected. Paul wanted his friends and fellow believers to pray that he could be delivered from them.
His was a religiously polarized world. The religious heritage of his people clashed daily with the Roman system and the Greek culture. Not only were religious sects common, there were numerous philosophical schools, occult practices, and militant enemies of faith. Scroll through the Acts of the Apostles to note the times when Paul and his colleagues were threatened, beaten, run out of town on a rail, imprisoned, or subjected to intimidation. The almost asterisk inserted into the text of his second Thessalonian letter, "For not all have faith" is a reminder that he entered that unbelieving world every day. What is more, it is an unwritten footnote about those living beyond the scope of Christian belief: they cannot understand the tenets of faith and will not respond correctly to them until guided by the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul's notation about the natural person).
The phrasing of his prayer request is interesting as well. He didn't ask that he be directed away from the wicked and evil men, or that the Thessalonian believers isolate or protect him from them. There was no fortress church concept of cultural avoidance evident in his prayer. He wasn't suggesting a spiritual cloister far removed from the opposing forces of the day. He asked them to pray that he be "delivered" from the "wicked and evil men". The word he used can also mean "preserved" or "sustained". The prayer request wasn't for an escape hatch or safety net. He wanted his message to be preserved so that he could finish the race that was so often mentioned in his other letters. That is not to lessen the destructive power of his opposition. They wanted his life at times too. Paul knew the fellowship of Christ's suffering (Philippians 3:10). But, he desired to press on toward the mark and finish the course marked out for him.
Your prayer for the spiritual leaders in your life should take a similar tact. Pray for deliverance from opposition, and take a couple of clear angles on this prayer---
1. Pray for your leaders safety, health, and well-being. These are dangerous times
and spiritual leaders will be in the cross-hairs of opposition from many quarters
in the future, especially those of the Adversary, Satan.
2. Pray that their influence will be maintained in this complex times. Anti-
Christian sentiment predominates many categories of American life, especially
in the media and government.
3. Pray for biblical multiplication of leaders. Ask God to give the spiritual leaders
around you the grace to mentor and train new leaders so that these roles can
be preserved in Christ's church.
4. Pray for continuity in the sharing of faith. This was an essential element of
Paul's request to the Thessalonians, that they pray that the "...word of the Lord
may speed ahead and be honored, as it was with you" (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
5. Pray with confidence. Paul added, "And we have confidence in the Lord about
you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command"
(2 Thessalonians 3:4).
Praying Scripture puts you in mind with the Spirit. Praying for your leaders deliverance from opposition will embolden them and preserve their influence in this perplexing secular culture.