We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention
you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and
Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of
hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters
beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the
gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the
Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of
people we proved to be among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 2-5
I FIND prayer a challenge. There - the proverbial cat is out of
the bag. I read what the biblical writers prayed with lots of
appreciation and a little bit of guilt (or sometimes the other way
around). I wonder what it would mean if I was to pray for members
of the churches I serve in the same way as St Paul prayed for the
recipients of his letters. As soon as those words are typed, faces
of people with whom I have worshipped come quickly and easily to
I am not sure that I know quite what it means continually to
give thanks. I try, but it often seems to be dependent on my mood.
Having said that, I am immediately confronted by an apostle whose
struggles and sufferings render my post-Christmas tiredness
minuscule by comparison. I then find myself almost transfixed by
what the apostle remembers before God, when thinking about the
Christians in Thessalonica. He remembers their work, their labour,
and their steadfastness, all underpinned by faith, love, and
So many of my prayers are monochrome by comparison with the
theological richness of Paul's, or are simply more centred on the
needs of the immediate rather than rooted in our relationship with
One of the common themes in Paul's prayers is his breath- taking
confidence that those for whom he prays have been chosen by the God
who loves them. I am aware that my prayer life would be radically
different if I dared to embrace such a concept.
I smile a little at the apostle's reminder that the recipients
of this letter know "what kind of people" Paul and his companions
"proved to be". As a priest, I am not sure that I would be brave
enough to pray that within the hearing of those I have tried to
Just as important, perhaps, is that, when we pray, our
intercessions are being offered to God: the apostle is confident
enough to present such words to God in the knowledge that he will
not be found wanting. Paul's assurance does genuinely seem to stem
from his unshakeable belief that his companions, those for whom he
prays, and, finally, he himself are all deeply loved by God.
As 2015 begins, that seems to be a good place for my prayers to
start: with the conviction that I am indeed loved by God. Prayer
would still be a challenge, but it might be shaped differently. It
might be less susceptible to lists, routine, and the promise that,
if only a prayer is answered, some reform will be made.
Paul does not barter with God, because he is secure in the
certainty that he is loved. This year, as we pray, let us resolve
to make that confidence our own. God loves us: from that wonderful
reality, prayers of all sorts can flow.
In the Name of God, who creates, redeems, and sustains, let us
The Revd Dr Kevin Ellis is the Vicar of the Bro Cybi
Ministry Area, in the diocese of Bangor.