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Love is, without question, the most fundamental virtue and principle of Christianity.

The Apostle John makes this very clear:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. [1 John 4:7-8, ESV]

The Apostle Paul seconds this in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

And how to forget Jesus' own words in Matthew 22:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:34-40, ESV]

With love being such a fundamental and central core principle of Christianity, a question that one should naturally ask next is: how to have this kind of love?

Is love (the Christian concept of love) a quality that can be cultivated, developed and increased over time? If so, how? Are there concrete spiritual practices that can increase a Christian's capacity to experience and express love?

Assuming that different denominations might answer these questions differently, I'd rather play it safe by requesting an overview of spiritual practices.

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  • I’m no expert and will gain more from reading than giving answers, but I suspect one avenue of investigation might be to consider the many words available in Greek (and Hebrew too?) to describe the different kinds of love? There is also a church in Rev whose “first love” had grown cold. Might be some ‘stuff’ there to draw out? Also, the relationship between knowledge and love of God could be investigated. And that btwn actions and feelings.. and whether doing when one doesn’t feel like doing is ‘enough’. Is doggedly going to peel carrots on soup kitchen night a “practice that increases love?”
    – user56152
    Nov 7, 2021 at 5:14
  • Ah yes, I do have an idea worth mentioning - but it’s not a “denominational practice”, it’s not ‘official’ so still only comment-worthy. That is: if you want your (emotional) love to increase for God, increase your knowledge of how great he is, and how small and insignificant you are. The best way to do this? Meditate on the heavens! At night in real life; add NASA to your IG feed; IMAX tours of the galaxy.. Tears come to my eyes when I see some of the beauty out there and think of the great God who created and sustains it all! PS, I suspect your best answers will come from Catholics 😌🙏
    – user56152
    Nov 7, 2021 at 5:28

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What is an overview of Christian spiritual practices for cultivating and increasing love over time?

Some things Christians should are universal because they are simply biblical, while other may be more tuned to a particular denomination.

Common denominators are prayer, contemplation and study of God’s Word.

Biblical based things all need to do in order to grow in love of God are as follows:

  • If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. - John 14:15-16
  • Prayer and Contemplation of God’s word in Sacred Scriptures.
  • Follow Jesus’ example in all our daily endeavours put before us. Pray for our enemies. Jesus often searched for a secluded place to pray to the Father.
  • Loving God and neighbour requires that we search and study the Scriptures. If we genuinely desire to grow in the love of God and neighbour, we need to understand what the Bible explains in growing in holiness and in love. Daily study is recommended by most denominations. Cultivating love means imitating Jesus and studying the Scriptures to understand his relationship to the Godhead.

Christians should also pray daily for the gift to love God.

Here is a simple example:

Father, please flourish my heart with genuine love that will benefit other people and me. Also, let the demonstrations of my love result to the glorification of your name. Let my love be selfless, impartial, truthful, and fruitful! For in the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen. - Prayer to Love God

If we truly love God, we will trust in him always. We can pray to love and trust Jesus in all things as this litany shows:

Litany of Trust

From the belief that I have to earn Your love

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear that I am unlovable

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the false security that I have what it takes

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute

Deliver me, Jesus.

From all suspicion of Your words and promises

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You

Deliver me, Jesus.

From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will

Deliver me, Jesus.

From anxiety about the future

Deliver me, Jesus.

From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past

Deliver me, Jesus.

From restless self-seeking in the present moment

Deliver me, Jesus.

From disbelief in Your love and presence

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being asked to give more than I have

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth*

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of what love demands Deliver me, Jesus

From discouragement

Deliver me, Jesus.

That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me

Jesus, I trust in You.

That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings and transforms me Jesus

I trust in You.

That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You Jesus

I trust in You.

That You are with me in my suffering

Jesus, I trust in You.

That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next

Jesus, I trust in You.

That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church

Jesus, I trust in You.

That Your plan is better than anything else

Jesus, I trust in You.

That You always hear me and in Your goodness always respond to me

Jesus, I trust in You.

That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others

Jesus, I trust in You.

That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked

Jesus, I trust in You.

That my life is a gift

Jesus, I trust in You.

That You will teach me to trust You.s

As our relationship deepens with the Almighty, our trust and love of Our creator will naturally grow more profound.

In this YouTube video on how to develop a closer relationship with God, Pope John Paul II gives us 10 Habits to Grow Closer to God (St. John Paul II's 10 Habits to Grow Closer to God) Although directed towards Catholics some elements may be useful to other Christians.

Ten Pillars of Spiritual Exercises to grow in Holiness of Pope John Paul II:

  1. Cooperation with Grace
  2. Prayer
  3. The Holy Eucharist
  4. The Sacrament of Mercy (Confeession)
  5. Listening to God’s Word
  6. Proclaiming God’s Word
  7. Marian Devotion
  8. Family Life
  9. Work
  10. Suffering

The Reformation Scotland site gives us 5 Ways to Grow in Love for Christ

People often speak about spiritual growth, but what does it look like? Words and activities are easy. Love in the heart and in outward expression and obedience is what Christ looks for (Revelation 2:4; John 14:15). Love to Christ makes us want to be like Him. Where does that love come from? Love comes from love. Our love can be kindled and increased from His own love towards us. How do we grow in our love for Christ? He uses means such as prayer and the Word to strengthen this love. We must take time to consider deeply the Saviour and His love and seek to draw close to Him. Here are five ways in which Christ makes the flame of love in His people burn stronger and brighter. In preaching on John 17:24, Robert Traill gives some clear and helpful advice on increasing our love for the Lord. Christ’s heart is set on having His people where He is. Surely, we ought to love Him in return. Most of those who lay claim to the name of Christian, think they make some conscience of loving Christ. They think it to be an entirely just debt and duty to Him and are ready to say with Paul, “If any man love, not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be Anathema, Maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22). But just as the love that Christ bears to His people, is not so well known and believed as it ought to be; so the love His people owe to Him, is not as well paid as it ought to be. Previously, we have considered 9 Ways to Demonstrate Your Love for Christ. In the following updated extract, Traill shows us five ways to increase in love for Christ.

  1. Consider Christ and his Love

  2. Believe Christ’s Love This

  3. Pray to Experience his Love

  4. Kindle your Love from Christ’s Love

  5. Let your Love Burn for Christ

Corey Sleep gives us 4 ways to deepen our relationship with God:

What does it look like practically to make sure that indeed our mind, soul, and heart are set on prioritizing God above all things?

Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).

  1. Prioritizing the Bible

The Bible is the Word of God—his special revelation to us about who he is and what he has done. It is, in effect, God’s very words to us, his people, breathed out for our betterment, equipment, and sustenance (2 Timothy 3:16; Deuteronomy 8:3).

  1. Prioritizing Prayer

In my early university years, someone pointed out that “if you’re not talking to someone, you don’t have a relationship with that person.” It makes a lot of sense, and prayer is an awe-inspiring privilege to have a relationship with God that we all too often take for granted. How can we make it a priority?

  1. Prioritizing Community

God ministers to us through us

The Apostle Paul often compares the Church (all Christians) to a body of many different parts that are indispensable to one another, and in Ephesians 4 tells us that our growth into maturity is done through community. We cripple ourselves and stunt our spiritual growth if we are not in serious, Christ-centred fellowship and community.

  1. Prioritizing Mission

This one might come as a surprise to some, but I don’t think it should be. Love, defined biblically, is inseparable from action, and any action we take as believers should be to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and so part of the mission of God. If we fail in being a doer as well as a hearer, we fail to prioritize God and his Word in our hearts, and so we have placed another god before him in our lives.

4 ways to transform & grow your relationship with God

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