Have you ever been frightened by the sudden awareness that you were in the presence of something very holy? This happened to me recently while reading one of the letters of the apostle Paul. A certain fear came unexpectedly upon me; I suddenly became aware of the deep love for the saints that dwelt in this man.
Paul, it seems, was always thinking about the saints of the Lord that he knew in various places. Like a parent whose children are scattered far and wide, they were always on his mind… and continually in his prayers.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers… (Rom. 1.9).
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers… (Eph. 1.15,16).
…Praying always for you… (Col. 1.3).
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day… (2 Tim. 1.3).
I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers… (Phm. 4).
We (Paul and Silvanus and Timothy) give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers… (1 Thes. 1.2).
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you making request with joy… (Phil. 1.4).
If you will take your New Testament and (when you have time) read the last two passages I quoted—Philippians Chapter 1 verses 3-11, and the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians—I think you will come away from your reading the same way I have, awed by the depths of the love you have touched in this man. His prayers to God on the behalf of the saints were the consequence of the love in his heart for them. He loved the saints. He loved them deeply. And so he couldn’t help it, he had to be on his knees for them.
One thing more—did you notice this in the verses quoted above? Paul is always thanking God for the saints. Why would he be thanking God for them? It was because of their faith (Rom. 1.8, Col. 1.3) and their growing love for God and for one another (1 Thes. 1.2, 2 Thes. 1.3), that is to say, for their fellowship in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1.3). How it comforted Paul’s heart in this dark and wicked world to know that some here and there had turned from darkness to walk in light. Paul was in fellowship with these ones.
It’s a word that has lost much of its strength these days—fellowship. It means, simply, sharing together, or commonness; but what Paul and these other saints shared and held in common was an uncommon cause, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were vastly outnumbered in this cause, were persecuted and despised and hated in this cause. So when they came together it was something very precious, and tender. They were brothers and sisters who loved one another and were ready to die for one another. And so they were greatly thankful for one another.
This got me thinking. It hadn’t really occurred to me. Am I thankful for my brothers and sisters? Yes, I pray for them, but how often do I get on my knees and thank God for them? I mean, really thank God for them! They are my comrades in battle. They are my fellow pilgrims on a dangerous journey. They are an oasis of green in the waste and howling wilderness of this world. They love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts, and they want to do His will. Many there are who love darkness rather than light, but these have turned from darkness to light, and with the help of the Lord’s grace they are determined to be faithful. At the cost of their lives if need be. This caused great thankfulness to well up in Paul. He thanked God for these ones. And prayed continually for them. It is far from an easy walk; it is fraught with peril in this present evil age. And so Paul found these saints continually on his heart, and continually in his prayers.
Do we want to be like Paul? It will mean coming into a love that, in its continual preoccupation with others, loses sight of itself. But let’s not stop at the desire to be like Paul. There’s another reason why Paul prayed so continually for the saints. Paul was like Jesus. And Jesus is preoccupied with the saints. Jesus at the right hand of God is continually praying for the saints.
He ever liveth to make intercession for us (Heb. 7.25).
It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Rom. 8.34).
And so if Christ at the right hand of God is continually praying for the saints, this is what Paul found himself doing also. He prayed continually for the saints because the Holy Spirit of the ascended Christ dwelt in Him—and so the same love that burned in Christ burned in him also, continually firing his prayers with the fire of the Spirit.
Are we short of this, brothers and sisters? Does the same love that dwelt in Paul dwell in you and me? Oh how we need this more and more in the body of Christ in this difficult hour—the love of Christ. We could not help but pray for one another, then. I mean, fervently. It’s the only way we would find release from the burden of love in us.
Release, I say… yet like a fire, this love grows when you feed it. If just now it’s not much of a fire, let’s feed it then! It will grow. And grow. And grow…
Let there arise in our hearts a new appreciation—Paul’s appreciation, the Lord’s own appreciation—for our fellow saints. We need one another. Let us be praying for one another.
And thanking God for one another.