January 12th Devotion

A Prayer for Prosperity – Alistair Begg

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. 3 John 1:2

Does God desire that you prosper? Does He want you to succeed? Does He want you to do well?

Those are controversial, and complicated, questions—and in large part the answers depend on how we define prosperity and success. We are rightly at pains, on the strength of biblical warrant, to refute every notion of the “prosperity gospel.” God is not our personal vending machine, Jesus Christ is not our butler, and the Holy Spirit is not our genie. God has not promised us that faith leads to health and wealth in this world. We should never forget that Jesus, who Himself had nowhere to lay His head in this world (Luke 9:58), said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

On the other hand, the apostle John prays openly and sincerely for prosperity for the addressee of his third letter. What the ESV translates as “go well” and “goes well” is actually a Greek word that means “to prosper”—though we should take care to note that John offers a disclaimer of sorts: “as it goes well with your soul.” It’s a subtle but crucial reminder that health and material prosperity are not disconnected from the spiritual.

Perhaps we might even say that it is only insofar as we prosper spiritually that we can genuinely prosper in any other way. In the words of our Lord Jesus, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Your portfolio can burst at the seams, and you can have the endurance of a triathlete, but unless your soul is fit, then your monetary and physical prosperity amounts to nothing in the end.

So what might John’s prayer for prosperity mean for us practically? Many of us, I imagine, will be quite content and happy to pray that all may be well with the souls of our brothers and sisters. But perhaps we may hesitate slightly to pray such prayers as these:

• “May it all go phenomenally well with my dear brother’s business.”
• “May it all go exceptionally well with my sister’s children.”
• “May my good friend enjoy the prosperity of God crowning all of his endeavors.”

We must remember that these issues are not ultimate—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important! As we rightly guard against the “prosperity gospel,” we must at the same time never allow our love and care for one another to become stilted. Selfless love always desires the best for others—in the soul, absolutely and primarily, but also in their vocation, relationships, and in any other engagements and transactions in which a Christian participates in a way that is obedient to their Lord.

Perhaps now would be a good moment to boldly lift up some prayers for the right kind of prosperity for others in your church, asking that the Giver might be glorified through all that He gives.
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