In the brief letter of 3 John we discover a heartfelt prayer the elder Apostle John expresses for his friend Gaius. In this present hour of uncertainty that surrounds us, it is a prayer that would be most appropriate to utter for all those in the circle of our friendships. Writing to Gaius, John commends him for his hospitality in opening his heart and home to those traveling about preaching the Gospel. Gaius graciously extended spiritual and physical assistance to those willing to sacrifice and share the Good News of Christ.
In verses one and two, John writes, “The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (KJV). In these two verses John (1) Expresses Personal Love for Gaius, and (2) Expresses Prayer for Gaius.
We discover John’s Personal Love for Gaius expressed in verses one and two in the words “well-loved/beloved” and “truth.” In this short letter John uses the word “beloved” four times (1, 2, 5, 11). The word “beloved” is a word of affection and endearment. It is the Greek word “agapeto,” the word used of divine love. John loved Gaius with a love that is greater than any earthly love, but a love anchored in the character of God. John even clarifies this love further by stating, “Whom I love in the truth.” Love that flows from the Lord is more than mere emotion but has stable substance…it is anchored in the truth. Divine love is not disconnected from truth in its content and expression. To divorce love from truth is nothing more than sentimentality. Agape love and truth which flows from Christ are companions of the heart and head that will remain constant in the storms of life and man’s ever-changing moods. Is that the kind of love we have for our fellow brothers and sisters?!?
Expressing his personal love for Gaius, in verse two John Expresses a Prayer for Gaius. John writes, “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (KJV). The first part of the “wish” of John for Gaius, to be prosperous/successful and in good health, can be found in many first-century letters. However, John adds an important element, he prays that the spiritual health of Gaius will remain robust.
Let it be noted, the word translated “wish” (KJV) is the Greek word εὔχομαί (euchomai), which can be translated by a variety of words, “wish, desire, make request of God, to pray, a pious wish.” While the word euchomai expresses a strong and earnest desire for something, in the NT it clearly implies to pray, as the word is translated “pray” in 2 Corinthians 13:7 and James 5:16. Its fundamental meaning as used by John is that he is expressing to God a pious wish, desire, request, prayer that Gaius would be prosperous in three areas: (1) Prosper in life’s journey, (2) Prosper Physically, and (3) Prosper Spiritually.
Let us examine each.
First, John prays Gaius will prosper in life’s journey. He prays, “that thou may prosper.” The word translated “prosper” comes from the Greek word εὐοδόω (euodoō) which means “to grant a successful prosperous journey, to cause to prosper, to be successful, to be prosperous in secular affairs.” John is praying Gaius will be prosperous in his life’s journey and will be successful in all he does in service for the Lord. Paul used the word in Romans 1:10 when he told the Romans he was praying that he would “have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.” It was a word that was used to include “wished for” success in life’s endeavors. It is good and right for us to pray for others to have a “prosperous journey” in life’s endeavors for the Lord. John’s prayer reveals that it is proper and right, especially during this current pandemic crisis, to pray that our friends have success in their endeavors for the Lord’s honor and glory.
Second, John prays Gaius will prosper in physical health, “and be in health.” The word translated health is ὑγιαίνειν, which means “to be well, to be in good bodily health.” Interestingly, Paul used this same word to speak of sound doctrine and teaching (I Thess. 1:10, 6:3). The word is in the present tense, active voice, meaning his wish was for sound health and well-being to follow Gaius continually and would ever be a present reality in his life. Some have suggested by the wording that Gaius may have had some health issues and John was wishing him good health. But since this was a common greeting and desire expressed in letters of the day, one can’t definitely say. But since Gaius extended great hospitality to traveling evangelists, John was praying that good health would continue to allow him to assist them. Again, especially in the panic of the present pandemic scare, it is proper and right for us to pray for the well-being and good health of others, as it enables one to focus attention and energy on serving the Lord and not be distracted by health issues that might bring one anxiety and slow one down from service for Him.
Third, John prays Gaius will prosper in spiritual health, “even as thy soul prospereth.” The order of the Greek conveys a striking truth, “above all things” at the first of the sentence is in contrast to “thy soul” at the end of the sentence, signifying Gaius was a Christian whose spiritual life was of such “good health” that John prayed that all other things in his life would equal the prosperity of his soul life. The word “soul” (psuche) here speaks of the “principle of the higher life, one’s spiritual life.” Above even being prosperous in our endeavors, above being in good health, the foremost important area of our lives is the health of our relationship with Jesus Christ. All the time, but especially in uncertain times like today, we need to pray for the well-being and health of our soul and the soul of others. In the case of Gaius, his spiritual health was the measurement by which John prayed for his physical health. If our physical health matched our spiritual health what kind of condition would we be in?! A sobering question indeed.
What a marvelous one sentence prayer John utters on behalf of his friend, Gaius. It is a prayer we should and ought to pray on behalf of those whom the Lord has let cross our paths. The three areas John prays to be experienced in the life of Gaius we need to pray to be experienced in the life of one another. And it just could be that we would see more of all three being manifested in others, if we consistently prayed for them to become a reality. In the current hour in which we live, it is a good time to start.