Do you write out your prayers to God at times? It intrigues me to notice how different my prayers are that are spoken to the Father and the ones that I write out. In spoken prayers it is very easy to run down the same road over and over again every time we pray. But in written prayers we tend to go in very different directions from one time to the next and they don’t tend to fit some mold.
It always amazes me to read the prayers of Paul for the different churches that he wrote. Almost every letter will contain at least one prayer and most of them have more than one. Sometimes the prayers are quite extended but in most cases the prayers will only cover two to three verses and get to the point quickly. Such is the case in Philippians 1:9-11. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Notice it isn’t pictured as though Paul stopped at this very moment to pray this prayer for them. Instead it seems he is simply revealing to them the kinds of things he prays for them on a regular basis. It would be like us telling our grown children or grandchildren, “These are the things I pray about on your behalf on a regular basis. It wouldn’t mean that he used the same words every time. But he wanted them to know the things that were on his heart when he prayed for the church in Philippi.
Haven’t you ever had someone say to you that they pray for you on a regular basis, perhaps even daily? Have you ever wondered when you hear that message, what they pray on your behalf every day? I suspect the church in Philippi that was very close to Paul’s heart, knew he prayed for them regularly. But it made a difference for them to know what kinds of things he was praying for them.
He prayed that their love would just keep on growing all the time. I’m certain he was praying that their love for God, for each other and for their neighbors in the world to keep multiplying. He may even have thought of their love for each other in the church or in their families. But he was praying that love would be growing constantly more dominant in their lives. But notice he is specific about the kind of love he longs to grow in their lives. It is a love that will bring knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best. Let’s face it, most of the time when we talk about love it wouldn’t fit these parameters. We tend to think of love as the mushy feeling that is better felt than told. Paul prayed for a love that will abound to knowledge. This is a love that is thinking, planning and leads to action. It is a love that will develop in us depth of insight. We might well use the word “wisdom” for this point. It is that ability to take what we know and understand and use it to make the best decisions in our life. So, what is the great purpose of this depth of insight in our life?
It is that we might have the discernment to know what is best. Some of the older translations have, “to approve the things that are excellent.” Don’t you love to be around people that have the gift of wisdom? They just seem to be able to look at all the options in life and choose the best way to go. Surely every parent wants to pray this prayer for their children. It isn’t just that they make good decisions. We want them to have the discernment to determine what is best and follow that route. Notice he ties that discernment to being pure and blameless in the day of Christ. Normally, the day of Christ refers to the time when the Lord comes again to receive his own. The only way anyone can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ is if they have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus from their sins and are walking in the flow of Christ blood that constantly keeps us clean.
But notice that his prayer isn’t just for them to be clean in the day of Christ, forgiven of their sins and pure in God’s sight. He also prays for them to be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. It is certainly our prayer for anyone we love that they will be pure and clean before God when they leave this world or when the Lord returns to judge his own. But we also want them to be effective servants for God that are bearing fruit to His glory and praise all the time. In John 15:1-8 Jesus described Christians as the branches that produce good fruit in the vine. It isn’t the rotten fruit that comes when lack of attention or failure to keep the relationship tight with the vine. It is the fruit that comes naturally in a life connected to Christ all the time. Our calling is to abide in him so his word can abide in us and we, like the tree planted in the best soil for the particular tree it is and that is pruned and cared for by the master regularly. This kind of fruitfulness brings glory and praise to God.
It is one thing to get praise from others who love us about how well we are doing. It is a totally different thing to have the praise and glory that comes from God for a life of faith and service to him that will not quit. Would you join me in praying this prayer for some special people in our lives over the next couple of weeks? As we enjoy the Thanksgiving season, what a special blessing it would be to pray this prayer for family, friends, children, grandchildren, fellow followers of Christ and even for those we don’t know as well in the world. I believe it will make a difference for good.