The Gospel RUN

Adapted from Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 20 May 2005

"Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you" (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

The apostle Paul visited Thessalonica during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1ff). He ministered there for three weeks, but was not very well received by the Jews. Remember how the Bereans were regarded as more noble than the Thessalonians because they received the word of God with all readiness of mind (Acts 17:11).

Be as that was the case, a church comprising of a large number of devout Greeks was founded in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4). These believers, no doubt, received the word of God gladly.

In fact, some of them received the Word so zealously that they decided upon a false notion to quit their jobs and prepare for the coming of Christ. Man is a creature of extreme. We swing from one extreme to another. The apostle Paul had to write to them to admonish them that those who would not work should also not eat (1 Th 3:10).

But that did not dampen the apostle’s high regards for the church. Indeed, he writes to them with evident fondness and assurance. So confident was he about their love for the Lord and for him that he humbly pleaded with them to pray for him.

Our text contains the first of two requests he makes of them, namely that "the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified" (v. 1).

What does that mean? Now the word rendered "may have free course" (trevch/)literally means "may run". Paul is asking the Thessalonians to pray that the word of the Lord may run.

Paul, in other words, is personifying the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord is standing still when it remains in the Bible. But it takes off especially when it is preached, and runs on when it is received, when it bears fruit and when it spreads.

In this way the word of Lord is glorified, i.e. it is magnified in the eyes of all who behold and in the ears of all who hear. Indeed, it may be said that the word of the Lord reaches its goal when it crosses the finishing line and is crowned with the glory of God.

So when the apostle Paul teaches us to pray that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, he is teaching us to pray for the progress of the word of God through preaching.

More specifically, let us learn to pray for four things. First, let us pray that the Gospel may be…

1. Preached with Accuracy, Clarity and the Power of the Spirit

When you listen to the Gospel preached by a preacher who is naturally quite eloquent or articulate, it may seem to be a breeze. It seems so simple. But I want to assure you that it is not that easy.

From preparation to delivery, faithful preaching is one of the most difficult tasks.

In order that the word of God may have free course, the message must be faithful to the written Word. Otherwise, it is the word of the preacher rather than the word of the Lord that will have free course.

For the word of the Lord to have free course, the preacher must engage himself in careful study and preparation. He is not free to say what he wants; he is bound by the Word. Sometimes the Word is difficult to understand and requires much time in thought and prayer. Other times the Word may be easier to understand, but difficult to explain simply. A lot of time is needed to think through how the truth is to be conveyed so that it is accurate and at the same time can be clearly understood by young and old.

This preparation must be done in the midst of many distractions—the cares of the church, the cares of the home, etc.

We must pray that the preacher will have the Lord’s help in his preparation.

Now, it is true, as Calvin puts it that "when the minister executes his commission faithfully, by speaking only what God puts into his mouth, the inward power of the Holy Spirit is joined with his outward voice" (comm. on Ps 105:31). And yet, that does not mean that we do not need to pray for the minister for the Spirit’s help in the delivery of the prepared sermon.

It is not true as some of us may think that once you have prepared a sermon it is a matter of reading it. The dynamics of preaching makes it impossible to simply read from a script. At least I find it to be impossible.

Preaching,—even with prepared text,—is not easy. It is not easy especially for those of us who are slow of speech like Moses (Ex 4:10). It is not easy for those who are rude and contemptible in speech like the apostle Paul (2 Cor 10:10; 11:6).

We must therefore pray that the Holy Spirit will attend the preaching of the Word so that it does not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power (cf. 1 Cor 2:1:-4).

Especially when the preacher is not naturally an articulate or eloquent speaker, we must pray that the Spirit of Christ may overcome the preacher’s slowness of tongue so that the word of God can run freely.

Such prayers are crucial. Many times, I would go up to the pulpit and suddenly it occurs to me that I do not have the freedom to preach or even to pray. At such times, prayers will be stunted and the sermon will be preached without passion like a read lecture. I would struggle through the whole service. But at other times, I would know the assistance of the Spirit. And I would find myself free to pray and to preach.

I cannot explain the difference. I can tell you that it is not dependant on whether I have enough sleep or what I eat for breakfast,—because there are times when I can be feeling rather unwell bodily when I know the assistance of the Spirit.

All I can say is that prayer, especially, the prayer of the church makes a difference.

Brethren, let us learn to pray that the word of the Lord may be preached with accuracy, clarity and the power of the Spirit.

But let’s not stop there. We must pray that the Word will run on. So let’s pray secondly that the word of the Lord may be…

2. Received With All Readiness Of Mind

Remember the contrast between the Bereans and the Thessalonians.

The Jews in both places heard the preaching of the apostle Paul, but one rejected it while the other received it with all readiness of mind. Where in these two places did the word of God have free course amongst the Jews? In Berea, no doubt!

We have not talked about the fruit of the preaching, that would be the next step. But can you see how the reception of the preached Word is important if the word of the Lord is to have free course.

So let us pray to the effect that God’s word may be received with all readiness of mind by the hearers.

Let us pray that the members of the congregation may not be held back from the worship services for any reason.

Let us pray that the congregation will come for worship spiritually prepared.

Let us pray that all prejudice and wondering thoughts may be removed.

Those of us who are parents, let us pray for our children that they be well rested on Saturday night so that they may be well-behaved during the worship service, so that they too may receive the Word, and so that you may not be distracted from hearing the Word.

Let us pray that the congregation will as a whole enjoy the sermon preached, for in general it is sermons that are enjoyed that are readily received.

But let us not forget to pray that the Spirit may work effectually in the hearts of the hearers.

So let us pray, thirdly, that the word of God will have free course in that the Word may…

3. Bear Fruit

In the Lord’s parable of the Seed and the Sower, there are four kinds of ground. There are the way side, the stony ground, the thorny ground and the good ground.

Do you realise that of the four grounds, three receive the seed readily. In particular the stony ground and the thorny ground receive the seed readily together with the good ground.

But out of these three grounds, only the good ground bears fruit some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred fold.

In the cases of the stony ground and the thorny ground, the Word is received with all readiness, but when the sun of persecution or the thorns of worldly care enters into the equation then the Word chokes and dries up.

In such cases, the word of God is stopped in its tracks. It runs no further.

What shall we do, then when praying that the Word may have free course? Shall we not pray that the Spirit of God will apply the Word into the heart of each hearer, and that the Word will fall on good ground and bear fruit?

This prayer is very essential. You know ever so often, we hear a stirring message and we expect changes to happen in the lives of those who hear because everyone seems to have enjoyed the message. But a week later, we discovered to our disappointment that nothing has changed. Why? Because the Word has fallen upon thorny and rocky grounds.

Yes, the heart of every regenerate child of God ought to be good ground, but is it not true that often the Word is not received by the new man, but by the old man.

It is received with much stirring of the heart, but the stirring is merely emotional and remains at the surface so that no changes result.

Brethren, shall we not pray that the Word will have free course through effectual heart changes wrought by the Holy Spirit.

But finally, to pray that the word of the Lord has free course, we must pray that the word of the Lord…

4. Spreads Rapidly

The word of the Lord must run not only in the heart of those who receive the Word, it must run also outside those who receive the Word. The Lord’s twin parable of the leaven and the mustard tree is essentially teaching us this truth.

The word of God must grow secretly in the hearts of those who receive the Word, but it must also grow visibly through the growth of the church.

So in praying that the word of God has free course, we must pray that the Word will run by way of the lives of the people, or by the people repeating what is taught.

Let us pray that the Word preached will not stop in the hearts of those who receive it. Let us pray that it will be written on the hearts and lives of the hearers that many more than those present at the preaching of the world will hear it.

Pray that when the Word is heard, those who hear it will have their lives so affected that others may see that they have been with the Lord.

Pray that after we have been blessed by the Word, we will be a blessing to others. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Pray that the Word will cause not only the enlargement of our hearts, but the enlargement of the church of Christ.

In this way the word of God will have free course. It will spread like wild fire. It will turn the world upside down as it did during the days of the apostles (Acts 17:6). It will redound to the glory of the Lord.


Beloved brethren, let us not forget to pray that the word of the Lord will have free course.

Pray that the Word may be preached faithfully, clearly and with the power of the Spirit.

Pray that the Word will be received with all readiness of mind and heart.

Pray that the Word will bear fruit in the lives of those who receive.

Pray for the witness of those who receive the Word that through their lives the Word will continue to resound for a long, long time.

Pray not only that this may happen here in this church. Pray that it will happen in every congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ where the truth of the Gospel is being upheld uncompromisingly. May the Lord glorify Himself through His Word! Amen. —JJ Lim

"Grant, Almighty God,
— that since thou hast at this time deigned in thy mercy to gather us to thy Church, and to enclose us within the boundaries of thy word, by which thou preserves us in the true and right worship of thy majesty, —
O grant, that we may continue contented in this obedience to thee: and though Satan may, in many ways, attempt to draw us here and there, and we be also ourselves, by nature, inclined to evil, O grant, that being confirmed in faith, and united to thee by that sacred bond, we may yet constantly abide under the guidance of thy word, and thus cleave to Christ thy.only-begotten Son, who has joined us for ever to himself, that we may never by any means turn aside from thee, but be, on the contrary, confirmed in the faith of his gospel, until at length he will receive us all into his kingdom. Amen"
(Calvin’s Prayer at the end of his 12th Lecture on Hosea)