Pour Into Our Hearts Such Love
Do I love Jesus? What does that kind of love look like?
You have prepared for those who love you
riches beyond imagination.
Pour into our hearts such love toward you,
that we, loving you above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
— The collect for the sixth Sunday of Easter from The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada
Pour into our hearts such love toward you . . . This has been my prayer for a long time. Help me to know Jesus—not just know about him—but know him. Help me to love you by loving Jesus. Not so much sad to obtain “riches beyond imagination” and “promises which exceed all that we [I] can desire” but to feel something.
That’s where I get stuck.
Early in my walk with God, I was taught that my feelings weren’t trustworthy. Facts were the most important thing and, paired with faith, would be enough to carry me the rest of the way through this life toward heavenly peace. The thing is, I’m a person who feels deeply and I struggle with believing that the most important relationship in my life is one void of feeling. (It’s not, of course, but there are days I struggle with the absence of the kind of feelings I think I should have.)
Pour into my heart the kind of all-encompassing love that enables me to be all I can be in you, through Christ Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Help me to remember loving you is not something I need to work at, but rather cultivate through spending time with you in prayer and reading scripture, paying attention to evidence of your hand in creation, and patterning my life after the example set by Jesus. And also, pour into my heart a measure of feeling.
Thirty-some-odd years ago, I rose from my bed and, in the moonlight shining through the living room window, knelt and prayed a simple prayer asking Jesus to fill me. I didn’t completely understand what I was doing. I just knew I was empty and hungry and something had to change. Evidence around me suggested Jesus might be the solution I needed.
As sometimes happens when God is working to turn a person around, circumstances in my life rapidly went from bad to worse. I held on to the mustard seed that had been planted with an iron grip, at times likening myself to Kilroy peeking over the fence into Christendom while holding on by the tips of my fingers.
Scaling the wall, hopping over it, and landing in a lush garden of learning allowed me to gain a foundation in scripture that I’m forever thankful for. I have learned a lot about the ways of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—what grace means for the world; what it means to me. I’m still learning. Daily, if I’m paying attention.
But do I know God as opposed to simply knowing about him? And perhaps more importantly, do I love Jesus? These are questions I’ve wrestled with for years and have returned to lately.
So, how do I feel about Jesus? In awe. Hungry. Humbled. Grateful. Sometimes, confused. But do I love him? As a word person, I go to the dictionary to find out the meaning of the word love.
Merriam-Webster describes love, the noun, (in part) as “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties”; “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: such as the fatherly concern of God for humankind” or “a person's adoration of God.” A hundred years ago when I was in elementary school, I was taught the definition of a noun is a person, place, thing, or feeling. Affection. Concern. Adoration. These are definitely feeling words.
Ah, but love is also a verb. According to Merriam-Webster in this context it means “to hold dear”; “to feel a lover’s passion, devotion, or tenderness for”; to like or desire actively: take pleasure in”; “to thrive in”; “to feel affection or experience desire.”
I don’t know about you, but my head is starting to hurt.
So, let’s go to the original Hebrew and consider the Shema which Jesus called the first and greatest commandment.
Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
And let’s not forget the second piece God’s only begotten added:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
What is this love Jesus speaks about? The word used here is translated from the Hebrew ahavah and does not describe a feeling. This kind of love is a verb, the root, ahav, meaning “to give”. You ahavah someone when your focus is on giving to and for them, your behaviour is loyal and faithful toward them, and your mind is fixed on them. Merriam-Webster may have things a tad mixed up. Sometimes, I do too.
But, am I wrong to pray for a feeling of love toward Jesus if I’m diligently and intentionally doing my best to ahavah him? I humbly suggest not. God knows who I am because he created me. He knows what I need and what I don’t and understands where I’m coming from when I ask him to pour love into my heart.
And I believe his answer to my prayer will be exactly what I need and, possibly, not at all what I envision. That is, after all, the way of the kingdom.