Ronald Dunn, in his excellent book, ‘’Don’t just stand there, pray something!’’ tells a story about a certain group of Sunday School children who were praying for a missionary. In one letter they wrote to him something along these lines: ‘’Dear Mister Smith, we are praying for you. We are not expecting an answer!!’’
It is interesting to see how many times Paul prayed for the Christians under his care, and how frequently he asked for their prayers for him and his ministry. It is clear that he was convinced about the efficacy of prayer. He believed that certain things would happen if believers prayed that would not take place if they didn’t. He was expecting answers.
So, for example, he prayed that the roadblock preventing his return to Thessalonica (2:18) would be removed (3:10, 11), and he and his colleagues evidently poured a lot of time and energy into this praying. They were ‘’most earnestly’’ looking for divine intervention.
But also, and this is typical of Paul, he prayed for spiritual growth (12, 13). His letters are sprinkled with such prayers. He believed that love would ‘’increase’’, that hearts would be ‘strengthened’ and that holiness would be cultivated as a result of prayer. There seems to be an implication in these two verses that growth in holiness is essentially about growth in love. ‘’And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you.’’ The Message.
The more we love God and the more we love people the more we will experience the essence of holiness. As Augustine reputedly said: ‘’Love God, and do as you like.’’ This brings us back to the great command enunciated by Jesus (e.g. Mark 29-31). When you boil it all down it’s about loving God and loving people. That is the essence of holiness, and it is something to be prayed for regarding ourselves and others.
Prayer: Help me, Lord, to grow in love. Please pour on the love so that it splashes and overflows and touches many people.