In our last post, we identified a number of excuses that we often use when prayer has not been a consistent habit. We addressed those individually, but it is helpful to have a big picture view that puts all of our excuses into perspective…even the new ones we haven’t yet developed.
Paul is a master at focusing on the big picture. He guides his readers to his source of joy, where his confidence lies, describing clearly his mindset to pray faithfully.
Philippians 1:1–11 (NIV)
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul, as he usually does, thanks God for the Phillipians, but he especially highlights that he prays with joy. When Paul thinks of his friends, he is driven to prayer, and specifically joyful prayer, but why?
Why Paul Was Driven to Joyful Prayer
Paul was driven to joyful prayer by the Philippians because they have partnered with him in the Gospel. The big picture is that these people have come to know Christ, and they have faithfully supported Paul as he preaches the gospel over time. Paul says they have been with Him, ‘from the first day until now’.
Paul is not just excited about their past faithfulness, but also that God is going to continually work in their lives, until Jesus comes back. Here we see Paul’s joy being localized on the continual growth of God’s people with a focus on the big picture, Christ’s return. How else could one write with so much joy while being imprisoned?
Later, in Philippians, we learn that the people are suffering for the sake of the gospel, just like Paul. Even though Paul is slandered and imprisoned, they refuse to break fellowship with him, refuse to abandon the Gospel which is the bond of their partnership.
Praying with Joy…
People like that should drive us to our knees before God because they are few and far between, and they are a joy to partner with. Paul gushes about how much the Philippians mean to him.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Remember the big picture. People who share in God’s grace with us is where our affections should come from, and that is the basis by which we develop our most meaningful relationships. Paul then prays for them.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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.
What Paul prays for…
From this affection for their partnership in the Gospel, Paul then tells the Philippians what he is praying for:
- That their love may abound more and more
- That they would be able to discern what is best
- That they may be pure, blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness
Each piece of Paul’s prayer build’s on each other. Paul wants the Philippians to be able to discern what is best, or what is excellent. How can they decide to spend their time, their energy and their resources pursuing what is excellent? What is best?
The Necessity of Love
Paul’s prayer reveals that in order to discern what is best, they need love.
This is a bit counter intuitive. One might think I need a college education, or an expert guide in a certain field, or a list of pro’s and con’s to figure out what is best. Paul prays that the Philippians would abound in love more and more in order to determine what is best.
So, as I ask the question what is best, the only way I am going to be able to answer that question accurately is if I have been growing in love. Not just unbridled love mind you, but love that is growing; constrained and focused by knowledge and insight.
In other words we need wisdom of how best to show love. That is going to come from a knowledge of God’s word, how He shows love, how He gives sacrificially and how He cares about people’s long term eternal well being, rather than short term solutions. In other words, love that abounds more and more but that is focused by the gospel.
So, love is the foundation that enables one to discern what is best, which, in turn, steps us up to the next goal – being pure, blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness. In other words, as I discern what is best, it has a real impact on how I will stand before Christ on the last day.
The big picture…
Again, Paul focuses the attention on the big picture. After all, standing before Christ one day is what this life is all about, what everything is moving towards.
As we make wise decisions, based on love, we will be in the best position to stand before Christ as pure, blameless and with fruitful lives that would be characterized by righteousness….and all this because Christ began a good work in us! When the work in us is brought to completion…God is glorified, and He is to be praised.
Do you need to pray more for an abounding love that is focused on the gospel, thereby enabling you to determine what is best? I know I do.