One of the books of the Bible that I have come to appreciate over the years is the letter of Third John. This short letter from John the Apostle to his beloved brother Gaius is packed with timeless, practical principles for members of Christ’s church. But there is one verse that is specifically helpful when we consider how we as brothers and sisters in Christ should pray for one another. I believe if God’s people would consider the ways John prays for Gaius in this letter and begin to pray for one another in this way, not only would our prayer lives grow stronger, but relationships in the church would also grow deeper, and the souls of men and women would be strengthened.
In the second verse of this letter John writes,
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
This prayer of John lays out three clear ways in which we can and should pray for one another as those who are walking in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
1. Wellness in circumstances (v. 2a)
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you
Think for a moment what “all may go well with you” could include. Consider how it would change our prayer and our relationships within the church if we committed to praying that all may go well with specific members of the body. First of all, we would need to know more about the different areas of their everyday lives. We would need to spend time talking to them getting to know them on a deeper level. This in itself would strengthen the relationships we have as we walk in truth together.
Praying for the general well-being of the church family would mean we are praying for their life within the church, their family life, their vocation, their ministry, and their financial well-being.
2. Wellness in body (v. 2b)
Beloved, I pray …. that you may be in good health,
This is one we are usually devoted to. Our prayer meetings, personal prayers, and family prayers are often filled with prayers for those who are sick, those who have been injured, and those who may be facing death. This is good and right for the church to do. When people are going through times of physical suffering and affliction, they need not only the comfort of God to persevere, but the wisdom of God to understand what he is seeking to teach them during this season of life.
But even in this aspect of prayer, who couldn’t be more devoted to not only praying for the health of the sick but praying for the health of the well. There is no evidence in this letter that Gaius has health issues, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to stop and pray for the health of those we are united with in truth to stay in good health. The Apostle John knows that Gaius is in the middle of a hard season in the life of the church as they are battling division caused by an arrogant church member named Diotrephes. He understands the need for Gaius to be in good health so that he can serve the Lord and his church in full strength with all his might.
This is a great example of how we can pray for one another before the sickness comes. John teaches us here to pray for our pastors that they may be in good health, pray for our deacons that they stay physically strong, and pray for individual church members that all may go well with their health.
3. Wellness in soul (v. 2c)
Beloved, I pray….. it goes will with your soul.
Now here is something I don’t think we consider enough. We may often pray for the souls of the lost. Even in praying for the souls of our unbelieving family, friends, and coworkers, there is probably need for growth. But here, the apostle prays for the soul of his beloved brother, a church leader—a man who is known for his hospitality and commitment to the truth.
Here is another timeless principle from this text. Even godly men and women need prayer for their souls. Everyone believer is in this state of saved but being sanctified. And just like our flesh needs sanctification, so does our soul. Our desires, our affections, and our passions need to be constantly strengthened and conformed into the image of Christ.
We are body and soul creatures. There is no getting around our body decaying, but our souls on the other hand should be being renewed day by day until the Lord of glory comes to gather his Bride! Here again, if we want to pray for the souls of our brothers and sisters, we have to ask the question, how is your soul? This is going to take effort, commitment, and trust within the family of faith. But as the church seeks to care for the souls of individuals through prayer, we will grow in our love for and devotion to one another. Most importantly, we will grow in our commitment to prayer and communion with God the Father.
Can we learn from the apostle here? Can we begin praying for one another, that our love for one another might increase and our souls might be constantly strengthened through prayer.
In studying this passage, I was reminded of John Fawcett’s hymn, Blest Be The Tie That Binds. In the second and third stanza of this hymn Fawcett writes,
Before our Father’s throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.
Christian relationships bound in truth are expressed in the way we pray for one another, the burdens we share with one another, and the sympathy we have for one another. Let us be faithful to pray that all is well with body and soul of our brothers and sisters in Christ!