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Praying With Paul – #9

Posted on by Bill Mann

A message by Pastor Bill Mann on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at King’s Grace Fellowship.
Philippians 1:3-11

Tonight, as we continue our journey into the prayers of Paul, I want us to take a look at Philippians 1:3-11.

Philippians 1:3–8 (NKJV) 
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

Paul Actually Prayed For People

What I like about this passage is that it presents Paul’s heart very clearly for the people God has allowed him to be connected to. Make no mistake, God is in control of our lives and he “arranges” our connections (relationships). No one has the same circle of influence. If you contemplate this notion, you will see that God has indeed strategically placed you in the lives of the people that you find yourself surrounded with. You are His “living” witness.

To be sure, Paul preached to them and taught them the Word, but most importantly, Paul prayed for them. Really prayed for them. In fact, he prayed for them as often as he thought of them. This is why I personally have adopted the position that when someone “pops” in my brain, it’s the Holy Spirit, He has “prompted” me to pray for that person.

If I do not know anything about their situation, I will pray in tongues. (See 1 Cor. 14:2) If I know of their situation, I’ll pray the best prayer possible based upon how much I know of the situation, then round it off with praying in tongues. So, I will faithfully pray for you every time I remember you. In the natural, the deeper your relationship with a person the more often you will be inclined to remember them. Yet also, the Holy Spirit will and does bring people to your mind/heart hoping that you will pray for them.

What’s this “best prayer possible” you speak of? I like to think that it’s the actual prayer you’ve prayed, because you actually prayed it. This is the point! You prayed! To help sharpen your prayer abilities, remember that by observing that attitude and frequency of Paul’s prayers (and others) can give you focus. And understand that more you respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, the easier it becomes hear and respond to future promptings. The old adage “practice make perfect” I think applies here.

Once and for all, I want people wrap their heads around this notion: There are no “magic” words that must be inserted into you your prayers. Rather a simple, honest heart of love for people (especially the people in your circle of influence) a quick response to the Holy Spirit, and the regular words you normally use is all that is necessary. Your words mustn’t be flowery, you don’t need a “world class” prayer that will be quoted for years to come. Just simple honest prayers.

That being said, I think Paul’s simple, honest prayer is world class though and we can really learn from it.

The Prayer

Philippians 1:9–11 (NKJV) 
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 

Text Comparison

Philippians 1:9–11 (ESV) 
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 

Philippians 1:9–11 (NLT) 
9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. 

Philippians 1:9–11 (The Message) 
9 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings 10 so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: 11 bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. 

My favorite line from this passage is from The Message. . . . making Jesus Christ attractive to all . . .” What a goal, what an aspiration!

So, let’s talk about what Paul prayed. First, what did Paul pray for?

Prayer For Love

9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,

Paul wasn’t just praying that the Philippians love would grow, “It is a prayer that love for fellow-believers may develop in the qualities of knowledge and depth of insight.”

The first word (knowledge) generally conveys the idea of a mental grasp of spiritual truth, but the biblical sense of knowing God is in an intimacy made possible through God’s revelation through His creation, His Son Jesus Christ, and received by faith is the main thought here. A better knowledge of God and his ways will promote greater harmony within the fellowship and give . . . a clearer understanding of their mutual relationships as fellow-believers.

The word translated in the NIV as “depth of insight”, can be understood also as ‘perception’, ‘discrimination’, or even ‘tact’; it is the employment of the faculty which makes a person able to make a moral decision. . . .  It is used in the lxx [Septuagint/Greek Translation of the OT] to translate ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ (especially in Proverbs e.g. 1:4, 7, 22; 3:20; 5:2), yet is found only once in the New Testament.

These two Christian qualities were necessary in a community where a tendency to disunity and fault-finding was present, (see Phil. 4:2-3) and needed to be put right. So, Paul makes this his earnest prayer before proceeding to admonition and correction.

As one commentary put it:

The most effective way to influence another is to pray for that person, and if a word of rebuke or correction has to be spoken let it be prayed over first, and then spoken in love.

This of course applies to children, spouses, friends, etc. The reason for this request:

10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ

I like how the NLT renders the first part of this verse. “I want you to understand what really matters.” And then in The Message, “so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.” This is such an import issue for any faith community. Paul “prays that the Philippians may be true and pure inwardly, and blameless in their outward lives.”

The idea of approving the things that are excellent is learning to choose the best of good choices after having thoroughly examined them. The word for “approve” was a term used in testing the genuineness of coins or precious metals, so the idea here is in the examining of the things that really matter. So Paul is praying that in view of love that has grown from an intimate, personal knowledge of God through His Son Jesus and with Holy Spirit empowered discernment, they would be able to make the best choices as it relates to life and community. And this until the “Day of Christ”. (which an entirely different subject)

Let me touch on The Messages’ “so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.” Love is such a vast subject to contemplate. I have observed that in our culture love is thrown around an awful lot and has various degrees of meaning. Some think love is never confronting wrong, but wrong will destroy you. As believers I believe we are duty bound to speak against wrong. But the attitude and motivation for “speaking the truth in love” is the key.

Sincere love is genuine love. (Gk. agape) Of the words used in the Bible for love, the two most common are agape and phileo (and their various forms) where phileo is love based on association, relationships and affinity for things held in common. Agape is conceptional with a myriad of definable action points. (see 1 Corinthians 13) Agape is generally defined in the Greek as “to have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard” The concept of agape, is that agape all by itself is valuable. (intrinsic) It’s always right to hold those created in the image of the Most High in high regard and as extremely valuable because of whose image they bear!

Guess what? This type of love cannot be faked really! We never fool anyone by our insincere attempts with agape. Only ourselves. And by doing so we feel we’ve done well. I believe that this is why Paul prays what he prays here and other places.

And he includes in this prayer that the “approving things” and the quality of one’s “sincerity” would be ongoing until Christ gathers together all the saints and brings His plan to a glorious culmination. 

Prayer For Tangible Expressions of Righteousness

11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 

Lastly, Paul continues his prayer that they would be filled with tangible expressions of righteousness. This is similar to what Paul expanded on in Galatians 5:22-23. One commentary put it this way:

The fruit . . . of righteousness is either the possession of Christ’s righteousness received by faith . . . i.e. fruit which consists in being right with God . . . or the evidence of such right relationship in the display of those ethical characteristics which are described in Galatians 5:22. But both views are complementary.

If nothing is visible, where will be witness be? Paul knew this, thus prayers like this one and others. Jesus knew this as He said that we would be characterized by our love for one another. We know this if we are honest with ourselves. If the fruit of righteousness is displayed in our lives actively God will ultimately receive glory and honor.

Remarks

Let me close with this. This prayer is a classic. First pray it for yourself, then pray it for others. Pray the words of your favorite translation if you must, but let this concept sink deep into your spirit so that you can pray beyond the passage.

Philippians 1:9–11 (The Message)
9
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings 10 so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: 11 bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. 

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