Paul’s Prayer for Believers

by Jerry Senn

"For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you approve what is excellent, and so 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." 
— Philippians 1:8-11

Paul prayed regularly for his brothers and sisters in Philippi. He had founded that church through his preaching (Acts 16). They had remained constant in their support and love for him, even as he is at this point a prisoner in Rome. In verse 7, we writes, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”

In this letter Paul seems to detect seeds of disunity which were endangering their spiritual growth (see 4:2). He calls on these believers to maintain the “same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (2:2).

Paul believes that “love,” which was poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) at conversion, must continue and mature over time. Such is the call this prayer may be applied to all assemblies of the saints, in every age and circumstance. To this abounding in love he adds two qualifiers. To their love there must be included “knowledge and all discernment (insight).”

“Paul was not blind to the dangers of emotion uncontrolled by intelligence. He was resolved by his own account to pray and sing ‘with my spirit … also … with my mind’ (1 Corinthians 14:15), and he was equally concerned that he and his converts should love in spirit and mind alike … It is love that fosters the growth of true knowledge and discernment or spiritual perception” … Knowledge, divorced from love, ‘puffs up,’ whereas ‘love builds up’ (1 Corinthians 8:1). The truth of the gospel is liable to be subverted where ignorance and faulty judgment provide a foothold for the unsound teaching against which the Philippians are put on their guard in chapter 3″ (FF Bruce, “NIBC, Philippians”, pp 36, 37).

As was true in Paul’s day, as in our’s, there were competing forms of teaching and ways of living being presented to God’s people for consumption or rejection. Empty speculations and rank untruth demand that “abounding love” be practiced with wise and clear headed judgment.

The warning Paul tactfully provides is a matter of being ready for “the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10-11). “The fruit of righteousness” will result by learning to abound “more and more in love, with knowledge and discernment, so that you approve what is excellent” (verse 9, 11).

This great prayer will bless our walk with God as we allow love to truly abound in our hearts, “to the glory and praise of God.”