December seemed to get away from me and my intention to write about what I was reading and learning from Paul’s prayers. But I decided better late than never, so here I go, continuing with St. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians.
Paul had spent several days in Philippi during one of his missionary trips (Acts 16) and now, some years later, is writing to thank them for their recent support of him while he is imprisoned in Rome. And he tells them about the spiritual blessings he is praying for them.
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.”
I’ve been praying this prayer for my children for a while now and I’ve come to see how rich and full of meaning this one-long-sentence prayer is. Again we see him praying for these spiritual gifts and fruit, rather than monetary or even physical things. Let’s take a look at this prayer bit by bit.
Love is a deep and wide subject. And I believe Paul wants the fullness of love for the Philippians. He wants them to experience the full width of love, ranging from loving God all the way over to loving neighbors and enemies. And he wants it to be a deep love, growing more and more as they come to know and gain insights into those they love which also encompasses knowing and loving themselves as God has created them.
Next we see a “so that”. I love looking at all of the “so thats…” in the Bible. There are so many times when we are given a command so that something good may happen. Here Paul wants the Philippians to love so that they may be able to make good choices. So that their ability to discern what is the right thing to do, based on love for themselves, their neighbor or their enemy and God is sharpened and honed.
And with this deep and wide love not only are they able to make wise choices, they will be pure and blameless when Christ returns. Certainly we will sin, and our children will sin, even if we pray this prayer for them! But their hearts will be in a right place with God. Like King David, who was a man after God’s own heart, humans will sin. But when we repent, our transgressions are wiped away and we can stand before the throne of God confidently.
Having love, being pure and blameless, Paul prays that they may also be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ. Righteousness is not something we humans can get or earn on our own. It only comes from the saving power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. And I think it’s important to pray this part because we want to remember that we didn’t do the saving ourselves, to remember that we can’t get to heaven on our own, to remember that we can’t be righteous without our Savior.
The last petition of the prayer would be easily overlooked. It seems almost an add-on really. But I think it has great significance. We want all the love, the pure and blamelessness, the righteousness to be to the glory and praise of God. Without this last piece all the rest is in vain. Paul writes in First Corinthians, chapter 13 that without love all of our gifts and abilities are worthless. Similarly, if we love and somehow take the credit for our great act of love then that becomes our reward. When we have a deep and wide love and acknowledge Who it is that enables us to have such great love we add to our treasure in heaven.