2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
I forget who it was years ago who pointed out to me that this verse records the answer to a prayer Paul wrote in his first letter to these believers: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12) Sometimes we need to be reminded that God answers prayer! Prayer for specific things like healing is easy to credit when it is answered, but sometimes we fail to pray for things like increased love, as here, because it seems too amorphous. However, God cares about everything, and He delights to answer prayers of this sort. He also answers prayers for things like wisdom (James 1:5) and guidance, which appear throughout the Bible. The devil fears our prayers, so he does everything he can to keep us from praying. He tells us God doesn’t care, that He isn’t listening, and why would He answer us, anyway? Every one of those is an absolute lie! God cares because He loves us perfectly. That is His character. (1 John 4:8) Our love is imperfect, which is why we need to keep growing in it, as Paul prayed, but His is perfect right off the bat. That means that He knows exactly what we need and what is best for us. That doesn’t mean handing us everything on a silver platter, because then we wouldn’t grow and mature. That wouldn’t be best for us. That’s a truth many parents need to learn in relation to their own children. However, He delights to be good to us, just as Jesus said. (Luke 12:32) So when we pray we shouldn’t be demanding, but we should pray with the expectation that God is going to answer our prayers. It might not be in the way we expect, or even the way that our flesh would like, but it will be in the way that is best for us, for His glory.
This passage is particularly poignant to me today, because today is the 53rd anniversary of Cathy’s and my first date. The very next day I wrote my parents that I had found the girl I wanted to marry, and I’m sure my parents prayed for us much as Paul prayed for the believers in Thessalonica. Since we got engaged 11 days after that first date, and Cathy had been engaged to someone else up until that point, the Japan missionary whom we asked to perform our wedding in May later told us he was very hesitant to do so, thinking it might all fall apart. However, he agreed to do it, saying “If Max Garrott is praying for them, then it will work out.” Indeed it did, and Cathy’s and my relationship was a source of joy and satisfaction to all four of our respective parents. Love can grow, and praying for it to do so is very much in line with God’s heart. As a pastor I have plenty of reason to pray that way, for couples, for congregations, and between congregations. Right now Cathy is being led into a prayer ministry to knit believers together across the various social and organizational barriers that tend to divide the Body of Christ. Praying for love to grow is integral to that. We need to pray with the expectation that God is going to answer, for the blessing of many and for His glory.
Father, thank You for this Word, and particularly for its timing. Thank You for how You have grown Cathy’s and my love, and for our parents who prayed to that end. Thank You for the prayer ministry You are opening up right now. May we indeed pray and share with joy and expectation, so that all of Your plans for us and for this nation may be fulfilled, on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!