Have you ever started to pray for someone (including yourself), and then realized you weren’t sure what to pray for? I have. It can be hard if they haven’t given you a specific prayer request, or if you don’t know them well enough to know what’s going on in their life.
However, when we get stuck, all we have to do is look to Scripture. There are plenty of examples in the Bible for how we should pray. Today I would like to discuss Paul’s prayer for the Philippians:
“And I pray this, that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can 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.”Philippians 1:9-11
I have read these verses countless times (Philippians is my favorite book, to the point that I memorized it). And yet, as I read them the other night, I realized something important that I hadn’t paid much attention to before–he prays for their love to keep on growing.
A lot of our prayers are for people’s health, prosperity, job situation, and life circumstances (and there is nothing wrong with those prayers… we should most definitely lift those things up to God). But how often do we pray for each other’s love to grow? Until recently, I didn’t pray for that much at all.
Paul could have prayed for any number of things–their ministry, their finances, the fact that he was in prison while he was writing this letter. But his primary concern was that of the gospel, and the spiritual well-being of those God had brought into his life.
He wanted their love to grow in knowledge–to know more of who Jesus is. I have found in my own life that the more I study the Scriptures and experience who Jesus is, the more I desire to love God and to love others (by encouraging them to know and love God!). John even goes so far as to say in 1 John 1:8 that, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Paul also prays for their love to grow “in every kind of discernment.” As humans, a lot of our lives consists of making choices. As Christians, a lot of those choices are spiritual decisions that can lead us closer to God, or bring us away from Him. We should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ that they may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2b).
It is interesting to point out that the Greek word Paul uses for “love” here is transliterated agape and is the highest form of love. It is the unconditional and unrelenting love that God has for mankind. To pray that their agape would grow is to pray that they would love God more intimately and be drawn closer to Him.
Notice in verses 10-11 the reason he prays this: “so that you can approve the things that are superior and can 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.”
He wanted them to love God and to know what His will for them was, so that they could live for eternity and not for the here-and-now. In the day of Christ, He wants them to be able to stand before the throne of God with confidence that they are covered by His blood, because they approved the things that are superior and followed the narrow path.
Something else that caught my attention the other night was the way he says “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” I normally read that verse as if righteousness is the fruit we are meant to be filled with, but–whether or not it is the correct way to read the verse–I now wonder if love is the fruit being spoken of. Our righteousness comes through Jesus Christ, and then as a result we bear the fruit of love. Love, after all, is the first fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38), and the “greatest of these” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Our faith in God should result in love, to the glory and praise of God.
We are made righteous in God’s eyes as soon as we put our faith and trust in Him and what Jesus did on the cross, but that doesn’t mean we will automatically continue to grow. Without effort on our part (such as reading the Bible, connecting with other believers, and regularly talking to God), we will remain stagnant in our faith. One of my fears is that we as Christians are not taking full advantage of what has been given to us and are instead settling for a surface-level Christianity.
We must pray for our love to continue. We must seek after God so we can discern what is right. We must abide in Christ and be filled with the fruit of righteousness. We must desire to bring glory and praise to God.
Everything that Paul is praying over the Philippians here is vital. When it comes down to it, the only thing that really matters in your life is the gospel. Whether you are praying for your friends or praying for yourself, I would encourage you to pray beyond the day-to-day.
Don’t ignore the small matters either, because if it matters to you it matters to God, but don’t stop there. Don’t stop at, “God, please bless our food and help us to have fun.” Get to the root of the matter–the core of your being–and allow God to lead you deeper than you ever thought possible.
During a session for an online summer camp I participated in last year, the speaker Ryan Fontenot outlined seven prayers for Christians to pray, but the one that has stuck with me the longest is this:
“Help me to love You more today than I did yesterday, but not as much as I will tomorrow.”Ryan Fontenot
In other words, may my love keep on growing. I can say that God has answered that prayer for me countless times, and I know He will do so for you as well.
Even when it is hard, we ought to love God and love others. Why? Because love, in its purest form, isn’t a feeling. True love is a choice based on the knowledge of God, and God never changes.
I pray that our love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment this week.
In Christ now and always,
Disclaimer: I strive to study the Word and write about it as accurately as possible, but please note that I am not an expert, nor do I have any formal Bible education (yet). Even if I was/did, I would still encourage you to read the Bible for yourself. Please test everything I say against Scripture itself, and if you ever have any concerns please feel free to reach out to me. Thank you for reading, and God bless 🙂