Saying you are going to pray for someone is a common occurrence in the Christian faith. We hear the needs of others and strive to support them. Prayer is our go-to action when we cannot provide tangible help, and it’s far from being the ‘least’ we can do. This is not to diminish the reality that it is more than likely we can do something to meet the needs of others, but in times of grief, in times of poor health, in times of relational breakdown, there might not be anything concrete to do.
One of the best ways to encourage someone in prayer is not to just tell them that you will pray for them. I mean, how many times have we promised to pray for someone, only to forget later? But like a number friends of mine, a great way to fulfil that which you promise is to write the prayer in a text and send it to them. Not only does this mean something to the person on the receiving end, but it also means you actually pray for them too!
Well, this is what Paul does here in the opening section of Philippians, specifically in v9-11. He writes out his prayer for them.
As we have discovered previously, we have read the heart and affection Paul has for this small church, and now we read what Paul prays for them:
And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Prayerful Partnership: Cultivating Love
First, Paul prays that their love will keep growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment.
Often we might think we need more information and more knowledge of someone in order to grow in love. We might tell ourselves that we can’t truly love someone unless we have a deeper relationship with them.
Here Paul flips this kind of thinking and shows that love should already be a given.
Paul’s expectation is that members of the church already have a foundation of love for one another, and within that thought he prays that this love will grow in knowledge and depth of insight.
We might think this way toward others, even at the church we attend. It’s a common misconception that we can only genuinely love others when we have a deep knowledge of them, even within our own church community.
Interestingly, this isn’t what Paul expects. Love should already be among us because we know God together in Christ. As 1 John 4 reminds us, God is love, therefore we should love one-another. So, when Paul prays for their love to grow in knowledge and discernment, it’s under the assumption that love is already a foundational element of their church community.
The call here is to go to love quickly, and pray it may grow in knowledge and wisdom.
Prayerful Partnership: Bearing Fruit
Second, Paul prays for the church to discern and approve of superior and excellent things. He hopes that they will be pure and blameless when Christ Jesus returns.
Here is a connection to our future hope. A day when Christ will be with us and we will be with him. How that manifests itself Paul doesn’t say, but he keeps this at the forefront of our minds.
And this leads to the final line, a prayer that the people of God at Philippi might be willed with the fruit of righteousness, that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Perhaps you’re one who grow their own vegetables. And if you are then I imagine you are aware there is an art to planting your anticipated produce at the right time. If it’s not planted at the right time then there will be no fruit produced. Here we read of ‘fruit,’ a metaphor for the visible actions and attitudes that result from being ‘right’ with God. This fruit, this evidence of our relationship with God, is made possible through Christ Jesus.
In being made right with God through Christ the fruit of that will be displayed in the way we conduct ourselves. The way we love one-another. The way we partnership with joy together. And as Paul writes further in v27, in a manner worthy of the gospel.
Just as we found joy in the gospel partnership last time, we now discover its prayerful aspect as well. May we be a people who partner with others through prayer, and praying for the fruit of righteousness that comes through our Lord Jesus.
This post is part of an ongoing series where we will dive into the themes, messages, and lessons found throughout the book of Philippians. For earlier posts please see: