Prayer for Abounding Love
1Th. 3:11 ¶ Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.
1Th. 3:12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
1Th. 3:13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Over and over again Paul’s own personal life is an example to all of us. Much of his time is devoted to prayer and when he articulates his prayers we are left with a beautiful template of that which motivates him in private conversation with God. Notice that he prays to God the Father and the Lord Jesus. Paul, without using Trinitarian language, reveals to us what he has experienced in God. Our prayers ought always be directed to God through Jesus Christ who intercedes for you and for me. Through this intercession the Holy Spirit leads and directs us.
This opening in prayer, the pathway to God, is followed by Paul’s actual request. His prayer for the Thessalonians (and I believe it would be for you and for me today) is that their lives would “increase and abound in love for one another.” Remember, it was Jesus who had said that the world would recognize his followers by their love for one another. Paul has recognized that this love from God is what must be present in the lives of the believers! Therefore he is praying for this love to be lavished on God’s followers, so much so that it would pour out over the entire congregation. Not only is that love to abound within the congregation but it is to spill out and reach out to the world around them. This love is to be for all to experience. And then again Paul sets himself up as the example, for he has been praying for this love to be revealed in his own life. His heart is overflowing, abounding, in love for these, his spiritual children.
Once we recognize the importance of praying to God, and we recognize that we are to pray for abounding love, the final verse helps us place this all in context. Jesus lived and died to make you and me holy. This is the goal for all of humanity — to be transformed into the very nature of Christ — which is holy love. That’s why Paul’s final pleading in prayer is that their hearts may be strengthened in holiness. It is this over abounding love that reveals the nature of Christ in you and in me. It means that we are being strengthened in holiness, and if transformation in holiness is why Jesus came for you and me, then as we grow in him, the result is that we will be blameless before God.
The entire prayer is one in which the followers are being drawn up into God’s eternal plan for all of humanity. We are to be transformed into the likeness of his image — we are to become more and more like Jesus Christ. Jesus’ life abounded in love. The manifestation that Christ is at work in you and me is that we will abound in his love toward those within the community of faith, as well as the world around us. And this is truly holiness.
Last evening I was at a church in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This is a church that has at least six different congregations from varying cultures meeting within the same building or facility. The place is active from morning until night — filled with people from across the spectrum. The kitchen and gym had just been used to feed 50 teens from the community. Another room and been used all morning to teach 20 women parenting skills. Another section had been used to provide the daycare for the children whose moms were learning to better provide for them. The after-school program had been training the teens in life skills. Next came the worship team practice made up of mostly folks from the Caribbean. Downstairs a mix of the congregations had gathered for a prayer meeting — for a mighty outpouring of love among this diverse group. Sundays the place is bursting with people coming to praise and worship God.
Interestingly on the way home we were discussing what it must be like to try and organize some of this “chaos” throughout this building. My brother-in-law mentioned that when he first arrived the building was deathly silent. He said that you could hear the crickets! Today he is filled with joy at the noise and laughter that fills the halls.
Have there been challenges? Of course! The wear and tear on the building is visible. And, of course, not everyone always cleans everything up — and yet, my sister-in-law said, “but it’s in those moments that you realize that you can show the love and grace of God to others as you wash up their dishes.” That’s love abounding to one another. That’s love overflowing to all. That’s the incarnational power of holiness and isn’t that really the goal?
On this day of Thanksgiving I am grateful for the abounding love of God in Jesus Christ which is revealed within his people.
Lord, may your love abound in my life. Amen.