Summary: Paul prays that his readers love might overflowmore and more wit hfull knowledge and insight
What could you pray for someone who’s new in the faith? What could you pray for someone who’s been a Christian for 50 years? What could you pray for your best friend, or for your husband or wife? What could you pray for those people you’ve never met but who your link missionaries have told you about?
Well clearly there are lots of things we could pray for those people, depending on the situation they’re in, aren’t there? But let me suggest that Paul in his prayer here in Philippians 1 gives us a model that will fit every situation.
1 He prays for Excellence
He says: "And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best." Now on a quick reading you might think he’s just praying that they’d be more loving. But the love he wants them to show is in fact just a means to an end.
You see, the point of his prayer is this: that they might be able to determine what is best. He’s praying not just for more love, but for excellence.
It’s like the Olympic motto: "swifter, higher, stronger." He prays that their love might not just overflow, but that it might overflow more and more; and with knowledge and full insight.
If you ever thought that good enough was good enough as far as service of God is concerned, think again. Good enough only works for yesterday. Today it’s more and more, higher and higher, stronger and stronger.
One of the criticisms you’ll hear about the Anglican Church is that mediocrity is the norm, that self-satisfaction is our great failing. Is that true do you think? Are our great strengths of a Biblical tradition, a strong liturgical practice and a well thought out theological basis, also our great weakness?
Do we sometimes think that we don’t need to do any more, any better? That the Anglican Church will just go on and on "as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be?"
Well, if that’s the way we think, Paul challenges our thinking with the prayer he prays here, a prayer for what is "best". So what is this "best" thing that he prays they might be able to determine?
He gives us a clue in the way he prays that they might discern it. He prays that their love might overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight. What does that mean?
Maybe it might help to put it in the negative. He doesn’t pray that they might love in ignorance and insensitivity, does he? Nor does he pray that they might love with cheap sentimentality and short-sighted ignorance.
That’s the easy sort of love that we can fall into if we’re not loving with knowledge and insight. That’s the Hollywood, chick-flick sort of love, the cheap sentimental, gushy sort of love you see in a soap opera.
No, Christian love comes with "full insight." It’s a love that doesn’t just ignore reality, but rather works in the midst of or through the reality of the relationship. What’s more it’s a love that comes out of the knowledge of the gospel, the knowledge of the nature and will of God, as we saw last week.
So it’s a love that’s informed by the love of God. It’s a love that grows in response to our experience of God’s love for us.
But there’s more to it than just that, because he prays that this overflowing love, informed by knowledge and insight, might help them work out what’s best. That is, to be able to discern between different paths, different options to find the superior choice.
It would be great, wouldn’t it, if all our decisions in life were simple black and white decisions. It’s cold today so I’ll wear a jumper. It’s hot today so I’ll wear a short sleeved shirt.
But anyone who’s lived more than a few years on this earth knows that there are very few black and white decisions to be made. Mostly we have to choose between different shades of grey; or in these days of colour television, between countless colours of the rainbow.
So the purpose of Paul’s prayer is to help them decide, among all the competing demands on them, what things they’ll put their time and energy into, what ethical and moral choices they’ll make, what career path they’ll go down, how much time they’ll spend with their children or their spouse, what programs their church will pursue, how they’ll divide up their time, or their money, or their energy.
And the way we decide that is by allowing the love of God, overflowing in our hearts, tempered by knowledge and insight, to be the key.