How does it make you feel when someone expresses their gratitude to you for a trait which they admire about you? It is always nice when you receive a word or note of appreciation for a gift or a specific act of kindness or helpfulness, but when your family or a friend recognizes and then tells you about a quality in your personality or character that they respect, it can be so encouraging. It is an extra blessing when together you can give thanks to God through prayer for His work in your life.
When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, that is exactly what he did. He started his letter by telling them that he “always gave thanks to God for them and for their faithful work, loving deeds, and the enduring hope that they had because of Jesus”. When you think about the intense persecution that these believers experienced and the enormous challenges that they faced every day, these words of commendation must have given them new confidence and courage. This letter is the earliest correspondence that we have recorded in the New Testament, so it was no doubt read to many groups of believers who were choosing to put their continuing faith in Jesus Christ. Along with these words of admiration, Paul also told them that he prayed for them faithfully. Knowing the specific ways that their mentor and friend was praying for them must have not only strengthened their own faith and given them comfort, direction and perseverance, but it also helped them know just how they could be praying for him and for others.
Paul obviously believed that prayer made a difference. It has been said that “the greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is to pray. It is not the only thing, but it is the chief thing. The great people of the earth today are the people who pray – not those who talk about prayer; nor those who say they believe in prayer; not those who can explain about prayer; but those who take time to pray!” Do you agree?