A reader shared the following, which was published in the “Lite Fare” section of the Christian Reader.
At our midweek prayer service, a member requested prayer for a neighbor woman who was having a difficult time and was feeling "just miserable."
Volunteering to take the request, a man fervently prayed, "O God, bless this miserable woman!" (Gladys Brown, Bucyrus, Ohio. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare.")
Although this man’s words didn’t quite come out the way he intended, he was practicing the privilege of intercessory prayer. The kind of prayer we pray on behalf of someone else’s needs. If you are a follower of Christ you have the privilege of praying on behalf of others. I’m always encouraged by those who gather here on Wednesday evenings for our prayer service. It’s a great privilege and opportunity for us to meet together and participate in intercessory prayer. We are able to intercede in prayer for others as we lift their needs before our Heavenly Father. But the privilege of intercession is not only for each other’s needs but also for the needs of people who need Christ and interceding for the serious concerns that trouble the world we live in.
We’ve been studying the book of Philippians the last few Sundays, which Paul wrote from prison. It’s a letter written to the church at Philippi and as you read its words you can’t help but notice the joy that was evident in Paul’s life and the joy he desires to see in the lives of those to whom he is writing.
In examining some of the keys to Paul’s joy we’ve noted that one key was the fact that he was concerned about others and was in the practice of praying on their behalf.
That’s what we see in Philippians 1:3,4
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,
This morning we’ll be looking at Philippians 1:9-11 where we’ll see the specifics of his prayer for the Philippians. I believe this passage can encourage each of us in our prayer lives and can help us to pray more effectively for others.
Let’s look at Philippians 1:9-11.
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,
v11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
I want you to see five things that Paul prays for the Philippians. These are five things that are needed in all of our lives as followers of Christ and give us a great example of the types of requests we can and should make on behalf of each other through prayer.
First I want you to see that Paul prayed for their love.
Love (v 9)
Look at verse 9 again. Paul begins by praying that their love would abound still more and more. Note here that Paul is not praying for their love to begin. As we’ll see in our studies to come the Philippians showed their love for Paul by their support of him and his ministry. This was a church that was already showing love. They were already doing this right.
What he was praying for was for their love to overflow, to increase, to spill over into the lives of others more and more. It’s like pouring a glass of water. When you fill a glass with water and then add some more it’s going to overflow. And that’s what Paul’s desire for the Philippian believers was that they would be so full of God’s love that it would completely fill them to the point of overflowing into the lives of others.
And it wasn’t just their love for others either but also their love for God.
We learned how closely related love for God and love for others is in our previous study, Loving God, Loving People. The more we love God the more we’ll love others. Our love for others is evidence of our love for God. And if you are truly filled with the love of God your desire will be for others to experience the same love of God you experience.
Sometimes we sing the chorus, “I’ve Got Peace Like a River” and one of the verses to that is, “I’ve Got Love Like an Ocean”. That’s the kind of love that Paul was praying for on behalf of the Philippians. Love that is vast and limitless like the ocean. You can’t love too much. There is always room in our lives for increased love. Even though Paul knew the Philippian believers were showing love he also knew that God’s work in their lives wasn’t finished.
I know this because back in verse 6 Paul says, 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.
As followers of Christ our goal should be to love more tomorrow than we do today. And hopefully as we get older in our faith we’ll also become more mature in our faith and the more loving we’ll become. And as long as God has us here on earth there will always be room for us to grow in our love. And our desire should be to love God more tomorrow than we do today and to love others more tomorrow than we do today. We will always need more love in our homes and in our churches. I’m thankful for the love that is displayed in this church. But let’s make it our aim to increase our love for God and each other. And let’s be prayerful for one another that our love will increase more and more.
Before we leave this thought I want you to understand something important about the kind of love Paul was talking about. The love that Paul prayed would abound more and more is not a sappy, sentimental kind of love, but its one that is grounded in knowledge and discernment. He says in verse 9, I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.
Knowledge is, understanding God’s Word. It comes from regularly being taught God’s Word and from us spending time reading His Word and studying it and meditating on it and conforming our lives to God’s likeness from the study of His Word. The Bible helps us to love what God commands. It clarifies His love for us and explains what true love is. By understanding God’s Word we’ll understand how we can truly love God and others. Knowing about love isn’t enough. We also need discernment in applying this knowledge of love to practical everyday situations in life.
We need knowledge and discernment in our love because love isn’t just feelings but love is an act of the will. We must choose to love. I know we’ve talked about this but despite what you hear from society you can decide to love whether you “feel” like it or not. And you can never do what’s right too many times.
Despite how I feel I ought to always be doing what’s right toward my spouse, toward my children, my neighbors, and my parents. We need love that abounds. We need more and more love in our relationship with God and with others. That was Paul’s desire for the Philippian believers and it should be our desire as well. It should be our prayer for others that their love would increase more and more—to overflowing.
The next quality that Paul prayed would be true of the Philippian believers was excellence. Paul prayed for their excellence.
Look at the first part of verse 10.
that you may approve the things that are excellent
Approve means to put something to the test. I don’t know about you but I catch myself at times realizing I don’t question my priorities nearly as often as I should. I find that in some areas I tend to be a perfectionist. And I can easily become distracted by the perfection of something that is a total waste of time.
Now I think we’re going to see that in many ways the Philippian believers were doing many things right when it came to the practice of their faith. But I think Paul was putting them on guard here and warning them to be careful about becoming sidetracked by things that are good as apposed to devoting themselves to what’s excellent.
I think we can easily get sidetracked. Not necessarily by bad things but by things that are not the best. Things that are good, but not really the most excellent choice for us can easily sidetrack us.
We ought to be praying for one another that we would have a love for those things that are excellent as opposed to those things that are good. The things that really matter and will last for eternity are the types of excellent things that should mark our lives. So many Christians settle for mediocrity.
How many of you plan to watch the Olympics on television this summer? Sure, we’re going to watch some of the Olympics. But is giving two or three hours every evening for two weeks to watching the Olympics on television what’s best?
What about family time? Is it important? Of course it is—I’ll be the first to admit it. But do I choose again and again to miss church on Sunday mornings because we want to have a picnic or we’re on vacation or I feel like I need my rest? What about when it comes to giving? It may be a good thing to buy a new car but does driving a new car make it difficult for me to be faithful in my giving? Life as a follower of Christ is all about choosing the best over the good.
I think sometimes as Christians we get hung up on not making poor choices and overlook that we need to strive for making the best choices. We need to strive for excellence as believers. We should pray as Paul did for excellence, not just in our own lives but excellence in the lives of other believers as well.
Paul also prayed for their integrity. Look at the second part of verse 10…
Integrity (v 10b)
that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ
This word sincere in the original language meant, “judged by sunlight.” Every once in a while I get an old newspaper and glass cleaner and I wash windows at home. Now when the shadows get long around our house I sometimes have to step off to the side and move to a couple of different angles to see if I’ve really gotten the windows clean or if I’ve left any spots. I’m judging the clarity of the glass by sunlight. You probably do that too.
We need in our own lives and we should pray for in the lives of other believers the kind of integrity in our lives that holds up to the sunlight. We need the kind of integrity that hold up when judged by the light of the Son of God. We shouldn’t just be putting on a good show for others but we should be sincerely and genuinely living our lives to please the Lord.
We should be careful that we don’t find ourselves like the man that sat down to supper with his family and said the prayer before the meal. He thanked God for the food, for the hands that prepared it, and for the source of all life. But during the meal he complained about the freshness of the bread, the bitterness of the coffee, and the sharpness of the cheese. His young daughter questioned him, "Dad, do you think God heard the grace today?"
He answered confidently, "Of course."
Then she asked, "And do you think God heard what you said about the coffee, the cheese, and the bread?" Not so confidently, he answered, "Why, yes, I believe so."
The little girl concluded, "Then which do you think God believed, Dad?"
(James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 433.)
This man’s daughter noticed he wasn’t really sincere in his prayer. And we too can be guilty of merely going through the motions of our Christianity at times. We say one thing and the way we live reflects something else entirely. We say we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but then we live in ways that contradict that. What we need is sincerity and integrity in our lives. Our lives should pass inspection when held up to the light of the Son of God to be judged.
We also need to be sincere in our beliefs so that others can’t use our lives as an excuse for their unbelief. Paul not only prayed that the Philippian believers be sincere but that they be without offense till the day of Christ.
John MacArthur says,
Sometimes children in the most godly homes rebel against the Lord. More often than not, however, an errant child rebels because of the hypocrisy of his parents, knowing that the faith they profess — regardless of how genuine and sincere it may appear to others in the church and community — is not manifested in their private lives. Although that does not excuse the sins of such children, it does make their parents share in the guilt. (MacArthur, J. F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 1:12).)
We need to be careful here and pray for one another as well that we strive to be without offense in that we aren’t guilty of driving others away from Christ by our failure to be sincere in our faith. There is coming a day when we will appear before Christ and we will give Him an account of the way we lived our life. That’s the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:10.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
We won’t have to worry about where we spend eternity if we have trusted Christ as Savior, but we will have to stand before Him and give an account. We see this also in Romans 14:10-12,
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
We know that we’ll give an account of our lives and that should cause us to want to be without offense. The idea conveyed here by the words, without offense in the second half of verse 10, is without stumbling into sin ourselves or causing others to stumble. It’s true we’ll never be perfect while we remain on this earth but it should be our desire as believers to grow in holiness and to rid our lives of sin and not be a stumbling block that leads others to sin.
We need integrity in our lives as believers. The Philippian believers needed it and Paul prayed for their integrity. What a wonderful privilege and opportunity to build one another up through prayer that we would be marked by integrity.
Paul also prayed that they would be fruitful.
Fruitfulness (v 11a)
Look at verse 11.
being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ
Paul prayed that the Philippians would be filled with the fruits of righteousness. Listen to the words of James 2:26…
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
If our faith is real we’re going to be fruitful—but what kind of fruits of righteousness should be evident in the life of the believer? Part of the answer is found in Galatians 5:22-23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Fruitfulness is also winning others to Christ. Listen to Paul’s words in Romans 1:13,
Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.
A fruitful Christian shares the good news of Jesus Christ with others. But fruitfulness isn’t dependent on our efforts. It’s a result of Jesus Christ working through us. Notice the phrase again, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ. They are by Jesus Christ. This is clear in John 15:4, Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
We can’t bear fruit on our own but we do by abiding in Jesus Christ. And the ultimate goal of fruit in the life of the believer is not our glory but God’s glory. When we depend on the strength of the Holy Spirit in our lives and we are living fruitful lives, God is glorified.
Listen to John 15:8 (NASB), By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
Is this our prayer for one another that we would bear much fruit that the father would be glorified?
That’s what Paul concludes his prayer with in verse 11 with the very significant phrase, to the glory and praise of God.
Glory of God (v 11b)
Paul’s prayer for the Philippian believers was also that they would glorify God. This is what the Christian life is all about. It’s about exalting God not ourselves. It’s about giving the glory and praise to God. It’s putting 1 Corinthians 10:31 into practice.
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Our words and our actions and everything we do should bring glory to God. If we live lives that are marked by love, excellence, integrity, and fruitfulness, God is going to be glorified. Only God can produce these characteristics in our lives. He is the One who deserves all the credit when these are on display.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is a beautiful example to us of how we should be praying for one another. Do you want to energize your prayer life? Do you want to experience true joy—and who doesn’t? Follow Paul’s example and pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ for their love, excellence, integrity, fruitfulness and that above all else that God would be glorified in their lives.
May this be true of His body of believers here at Higgins Lake Baptist Church.
Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church