Studying the prayers of Paul is a life transforming experience! Philippians 1:9-11, while brief, packs a great punch as Paul prays for the church at Philippi. It should be noted 1:9-11 is one long, complex sentence. The apostle continually prays (present tense) for them; he loves them as they are especially dear to his heart. To have brethren in our minds and hearts is wonderful – to have them also in our prayers is greater still. Notice four great elements in this prayer.
This Prayer Emphasizes Abundant Love (1:9)
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more” (1:9). Out of the “affection of Christ Jesus” (1:8), Paul prays their love abound more and more. This is a love that places great value on what is loved – in this case, God and the family of God (cf. 1 Thess. 3:12). God and His people are treasured and prized. It is a love that actively seeks the benefit of those loved (1 Cor. 13:4; Rom.5:6-8). But more, this love is to “abound.” Of this Greek term’s thirty-nine occurrences, twenty-six of them are used by Paul. It means, “above and beyond, ever increasing and rich.”
This Prayer Emphasizes Spiritual Excellence (1:9-11)
“With knowledge and discernment.” The single preposition “with” suggests a close relationship between the two expressions. “Knowledge” here denotes a full knowledge that comes by personal relationship and experience. The second term has to do with “understanding” and “moral insight.” Love is not merely an emotion; it is accompanied with insight that impacts behavior. Truly biblical love is well-educated and wise. “So that you may approve what is excellent” means to be able to lovingly distinguish not only between right and wrong but what is best from what is good. Love must display itself in the desire and ability to assess matters in a God-honoring way. “Filled with the fruit of righteousness” (1:11) is the result of such a faith working through love (Gal. 5:6). This is not by meritorious works but by God’s working in the lives of His loving and submissive servants (Phil. 2:12-13; cf. Col. 1:9-14). Those who display the love for which Paul prays are characterized by lives of righteousness. They don’t just “bear” fruit – they are “full” of the fruit of righteousness (Gal. 5:22-23).
This Prayer Emphasizes the “Big Picture” (10)
Such love and knowledge impact both the here and the hereafter; it effects both now and then. “And so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (1:10; cf. 1 Thess. 3:12-13). Sometimes we fail to see the big picture of loving and knowing Jesus. It certainly makes a difference in our own lives from day to day, but it also positively affects others. We impact eternity through our love and knowledge of Christ! “Pure” carries with it the idea of complete sincerity, without any “mixed motives” (2 Cor. 1:12; 2:17). “Blameless” here is not the ordinary Greek word so translated; the term here means “not offending” or “not causing to stumble” (1 Cor. 10:32). Paul would later speak in this letter of some proclaiming Christ out of envy and rivalry (1:15); his prayer indicates that such “mixed motives” would cease due to greater love and knowledge of God and one another. Our lives have been so refined by God and His greatness they are pure and holy. Our lives that had been so full of sin have been so transformed by Jesus they become “blameless” in the sense they can be scrutinized by others in the light of God’s word without finding any legitimate source of stumbling. How we live now indeed impacts eternity!
This Prayer Emphasizes a Means and a Goal (11)
The means to righteousness is Jesus; without Christ a righteous life is simply impossible. Jesus is absolutely necessary for both salvation (becoming righteous) and for sanctification (being filled with the fruit of righteousness as Christians). Were it not for His sacrifice, no one could be righteous in God’s eyes. Were it not for His grace and strength, no Christian could live a pure and blameless life. This in no way diminishes the necessity of our knowing, loving and obeying God’s will. Rather, it motivates and encourages it! (Heb. 5:8-9). The goal of the prayer and its content is the glory and praise of God. And this ever must be the goal – God’s glory and praise (cf. Eph. 3:14-21).
You can tell a great deal about a Christian by their emphasis upon prayer as well as by the content of their prayers. What does your praying say about you?—Mike Vestal