Pray for All the Saints

In 2010, Brandon Stanton began a photography project titled “Humans of New York,” with the goal of photographing every one of New York City’s inhabitants. As he took pictures, Stanton also documented the stories his subjects told him about their lives. The resulting collection of images and quotes currently contains hundreds of portraits and has over twenty million social media followers. Part of the appeal of “Humans of New York” is its implicit affirmation that every person is valuable and every person’s story is worth knowing. In today’s passage, Paul gives us a portrait of the Thessalonian church; its intimate details celebrate the life of those Christians, providing a pattern for our own intercession.

Paul begins with a statement of fact: these believers belong to the Father and the Son by the work of the Spirit. Though this church endured severe suffering and was confused about their future resurrection, they were securely and eternally loved by God. As we intercede for “all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18), we remember that they are first of all people who belong to the Lord.

The Thessalonians lived out this identity with their “work produced by faith” (v. 3). In the midst of trials, they modeled their lives on the lives of the apostles, who were often persecuted, and on Christ himself—our highest example of righteous suffering (1 Peter 2:21). Then, having followed godly examples, the Thessalonians became examples for the other churches in their region and even believers everywhere (v. 8).

These stories motivated Paul. He gives thanks to God for the believers, he mentions them constantly in prayer, and he remembers them before the Lord (vv. 2–3). His knowledge of their situation and his concern for their spiritual wellbeing find their expression in prayer.

Apply the Word

Though we might intend to pray for “all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18), we often fail to remember everyone. If you have a directory of the members of your church, a list of missionaries you support, or a map of the world, you can use it to systematically mention people before the Lord. Or create your own list with notes about the needs of others.

BY Megan Hill

Megan Hill (BA, Grove City College) serves on the editorial board for Christianity Today and is a regular contributor to the Her.meneutics blog and The Gospel Coalition website. She is the author of Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer: In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches (Crossway), and she lives in West Springfield, Mass., with her husband and three children.

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