Summary: Paul loved the church at Philippi and was committed to praying for them. We need to share the same commitment to pray for the church. There are real people with real needs, that need specific prayers.
A Prayer of Purpose
Philippians 1: 9-11
Following a gracious greeting and a word of thankfulness for their partnership in ministry, Paul offers a brief, but pointed prayer for the church in Philippi. Although his prayer is but three sentences long, it possesses great wisdom and reveals the heart of Paul for the church. Philippi was dear to him. He was thankful for the work they had accomplished and Paul prays for further spiritual growth as they labored for the Lord.
This brief prayer challenged me in many ways. It reminded me of the pressing need to pray for one another in our day of difficulty. It is impossible to pray too much for the needs we currently face. It challenged me to reflect on individuals within our church and make intercession for the needs and struggles they currently face. Paul was familiar with the church. Our church is made up of real believers who serve a living Lord. I realize that we each have real needs that need to be brought before the Lord. Paul was also very specific with this prayer. Although it is brief, he mentioned specific needs and addressed specific desires. Much of our praying is too generic. We must care enough to take the necessary time to identify specific needs and pray about them.
As we consider the specific elements of Paul’s prayer, I would like to discuss: A Prayer of Purpose. We discover:
I. His Concern for their Love (9) – And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. Paul first mentions a concern for their love. He knew love was essential to their effectiveness and productivity. If their love was lacking, the church would suffer; if their love was strong, the church would prosper. He referred to:
A. The Enlargement of Love – And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more. While it seems apparent that love was present in Philippi, Paul desired their love to abound. This speaks of “super-abounding; being in excess; excelling or increasing abundantly.” They possessed love for one another, but Paul knew their love could grow beyond the bounds it currently enjoyed. He wanted their love to increase abundantly, to grow beyond measure!
I am convinced love is present among us, but I am sure there is room for improvement. Our love for one another and the lost around us needs to increase. We will never be effective apart from genuine love, but where love abounds, there is no limit to what the Spirit can accomplish through us.
B. The Discernment in Love (9) – And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. Paul referred to their love abounding in knowledge and judgment. This reveals significant truth. While they were expected to possess an increasing love for one another and even those without the church, their love was to be guided in knowledge and judgment. This refers to advanced or precise knowledge applied and portrayed in accordance with the Word of God. Their love was to be derived from the Word and lived out in a manner consistent with the Word. Their love was to always be directed by truth.
Paul knew the church must possess a love that stood for truth in Christ rather than a superficial love that sought to soothe and appease the desires of men. They were not called to abandon their convictions for the sake of love. In fact, genuine love identifies with truth. This is a lesson that is much needed in our day. We live in a politically correct society that declares we must embrace and approve of one’s actions or be guilty of bigotry and hate. That premise is not based on truth. There are times when love motivates a firm, but fair rebuke. Our love must never compromise the truth of God’s Word, but seek to reveal and impart that truth to all men. We cannot love as the Lord desires if the expression of our love is inconsistent with Scripture. I know this phrase is cliché and invokes anger in some, but in reality we are to love the sinner, but not the sin. That is exactly what Paul teaches here!
II. His Concern for their Learning (10a) – That ye may approve things that are excellent. Along with their love, Paul prayed for their wisdom in Christ. He spoke of:
A. An Examination – That ye may approve things that are excellent. As Paul dealt with their daily lives and Christian conduct, he challenged them to approve those things that are excellent. This is an interesting aspect of the believer’s life. It literally speaks of our discernment, the examination of various aspects of life. Simply, he called on them to put things to the test. They were to analyze the situation or circumstance and measure it by a biblical standard. Their lives were to be lived in light of the Spirit instead of the flesh. Their doctrine was to align with Scripture, not the desires of men or dictates of society. They were to please the Lord, not men.