Meat Loaf famously sang “I’d do anything for love, but not that.” It’s a strong reminder that love isn’t just how we feel, it is about how we act; it is about the things that we do. Not only in our everyday lives but in our Christian lives it is good to ask ourselves how our love for Jesus transforms our approach to the things we do and don’t do. Not always easy, which is why we need prayer.
Like last week we will look at a prayer from the Bible to help us think this one through more. Look at Philippians 1: 9. Paul prays that
“your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.”
He prays this so that they may be discerning, fruitful and bring Jesus Glory (verses 10 & 11). These are the kinds of thing we all want to see in our own lives, we’d love to live like that. Yet it is interesting to see what Paul actually prays.
Take some examples. I’d love to be better with an (imaginary) annoying neighbour so I’m likely to ask people to pray that I am more patient. Or if I am struggling to read my Bible and pray each morning, I am going to ask for prayer to be more self-disciplined. Or, if I’m frightened of speaking up for Jesus in the workplace, I’m going to ask for prayer so that I have greater courage.
As good as all those prayer requests might have been, they are sticking plaster prayers – coming to God to help me with something I’m struggling to do. This is not how Paul prays. He prays that our hearts will be more deeply immersed in the knowledge of who God is and his love for us. It is this that will motivate or maintain our actions and behaviour.
So instead of Praying for self-discipline, he would pray for a greater sense of my dependency on God in prayer. Instead of courage, he would pray that I have a greater understanding of God’s grace and judgement that compels me to speak to those who are lost. Instead of patience, he would pray that in all things and all circumstances I give glory to God and point to Jesus.
This is Paul praying for depth of relationship, not ability. Courage comes and goes, as does patience and self-discipline. Grasping the depths of God’s love and purposes for us, so that there is nothing that we won’t do for the love of him who died for us, that is something that stays with us forever.