I’m finishing up my next book right now. It’s a book of prayers that I’ve prayed in the hospital chapel. (It comes out on Sunday. I’ll talk more about it next week.)
Writing prayers to share makes me aware of the way other people write out what they are praying.
Toward the end of his second known letter to the church in Thessaloniki, Paul was telling them about the challenges of following Jesus. He asked them to pray for his team because there are people trying to undermine his work. He expresses his confidence that the church is doing well. And then he says, “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.”
I stopped to look at those two ideas: the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. I realized that we often think of Christ as the love of God. And we probably think of steadfastness as permanence, perhaps more like the Father. But Paul may be thinking here about a view of God that, from the way Jesus talks, points to the love of the Father. And that looks at the endurance of Jesus in the face of challenge, betrayal, and death.
Paul’s asking God to draw us into reflecting, with our hearts, on the love that God is and the steadfastness, the standing fast in the middle of adversity, of Christ.
It’s a prayer for them (“God please direct my friends.”) not a task he’s assigning them (“Hey! Measure up!”).
However, he’s telling them about it so if they find themselves noticing God’s love in surprising places, they will see that it’s because Paul asked. And if they find themselves reflecting on Christ’s endurance in the storm, in the debates, in the wilderness, in the temple, in Pilate’s courtyard, in the cross, they’ll see that it’s because Paul asked. And if the wonder of God starts niggling at their imagination, moving their actions toward others, working into their thoughts at suprising times, they will know more about the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ.
We will, too.