According to the book of Acts, Paul narrowly escaped from Thessalonica. The Jews from Philippi came searching for him to kill him most likely. He was stoned on his first missionary journey at Lystra. He was beaten and imprisoned on his second missionary journey in Philippi, so I conclude that the enemies of the Gospel were out to silence him once and for all. They never go that job done! He continued his second Journey preaching the Gospel wherever he went and praying for those that he had to leave behind in places where he left believers. He left a small church in Thessalonica. In his first letter to them, he tells them in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Because of the enemies of the Gospel, Paul knew those he had to leave behind in Thessalonica needed prayers. His prayer begins with giving thanks to God for them. He thanks God for “all of you.” I think his prayer is very general in that he is thankful that God allowed him to be successful in planting the church in Thessalonica and he prays for the whole body corporately. But then Paul also says he “mentions” them in his prayers. Richison thinks, and he might be right, that this implies Paul prayed for each individual. He says, “He calls people by name in prayer. This is the only good — gossip on your knees! Paul loved God’s people enough to pray specifically for them by name.”[1]

Paul says his prayer of thanksgiving for them is because of three things: Their work of faith, their labor of love, and their steadfastness of hope in Jesus. Faith, hope, and love are a triad that Paul uses often. They represent the three most important qualities desirous of Christians. I think Holmes understands it correctly when he writes, “This familiar triad of faith, love, and hope (cf. 5:8; Rom. 5:1–5; 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:5–6; Col. 1:4–5; Heb. 10:22–24; 1 Peter 1:21–22) functions almost as a shorthand summary of the essentials of Christianity: faith as the assurance that God has acted in Christ to save his people, love (‘poured … into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,’ Rom. 5:5) as the present expression and experience of the restored relationship between God and his people, and hope as the confidence that ‘he who began a good work … will carry it on to completion (Phil. 1:6), and that the future, therefore, holds not ‘wrath but … salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thess. 5:9).”[2]

[1] Richison, Grant. 2006. Verse by Verse through the Books of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems.

[2] Holmes, Michael. 1998. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.