1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Paul’s prayers, scattered throughout his letters, are very good examples for us to follow in praying for each other. I don’t know that we often pray for people’s love to increase, and it really seems like a good idea. Right now love seems to be in somewhat short supply! We tend to look at each other as rivals, rather than as members of the same family. However, we need to model the behavior we are praying for in others! Also, Paul didn’t hesitate to ask for prayer for himself, and he never prays for someone else something that he wouldn’t want for himself. I think he realized that praying for others is one of the best ways to receive blessing yourself. Here, he prays that the believers’ hearts may be strengthened, and I’m sure his own heart was strengthened in the process. In mentioning Christ’s return, he was also reminding himself that indeed, Christ would return and set everything straight. This wasn’t escapist, like people essentially doing nothing while they wait to be raptured, but rather setting an end point to look forward to and strive for. Later in his life Paul realized that he himself would likely be martyred, However, as he wrote to Timothy, he had faith and assurance that God had prepared him for that end point, just as he had prayed for the Thessalonians. (2 Timothy 1:12) Sometimes we are impressed by Paul’s, or someone else’s, prayers, but think that we could never pray such “beautiful” prayers. However Paul, and every other mature Christian, learned to pray by praying. Books on prayer, and particularly reading the Bible, can be helpful, but nothing teaches you to pray like actually praying. The more we pray, focusing our minds and hearts on the One who created and loves us, the more we open ourselves to allow Him to grow us and clean us and heal us. It is only by praying that we discover that the Holy Spirit indeed helps us as we pray, (Romans 8:26-27) and that gives us boldness to pray as He directs.
I was enormously blessed to be raised in a family where prayer was as natural as breathing. In consequence, I have never hesitated to pray, and for that I am very grateful. I have had people blessed by my prayers, for which I praise God, but I have also had people intimidated by them, since their own prayers didn’t flow the same way. My prayers are no “better” than those of anyone else, I’ve just had more practice! Growth in prayer is one of the prime goals I hold for each believer in my care. I pray for them, but I cannot pray instead of them. Sometimes they want me to do that! I need to help each person understand that God loves them individually, just as He does me, and He’s eager to hear what they will say to Him. He’s never surprised, much less shocked, because He already knows everything, but He wants us to grow in our fellowship with Him, and that won’t happen apart from our talking with Him. John Denver is hardly a reliable spiritual guide, but I have always liked the line from his song, Rocky Mountain High, that says, “Talk to God and listen to the casual reply.” I want everyone to realize that God is the holy, omnipotent Creator, but He is also Daddy for anyone who will repent of their rebellion and accept what Jesus did for them on the cross. That’s how Paul prayed, and how we need to as well.
Father, thank You for the incredible privilege of prayer. I ask that You keep growing me in prayer, and keep growing everyone in this church. May we indeed be knit together in love as Your children, as part of the Body of Christ, so that Your kingdom may come as Your will is done in and through us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!