What would Paul’s Prayer be for his Beloved Philippians?
Paul prayed specifically for each of the churches he planted. He never forgets them and stays in contact with them through letters, teaching and correcting each church in those areas in which they need guidance. Most of Paul’s letters dealt with Theological issues: The Gospel, The Law, Israel and the Church as God’s Chosen People, The Future Return of Christ, False Teachings. However, when we read his letter to the Philippians, we see something quite different. We don’t see a specific Theological teaching.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is more of a personal letter, thanking them for their continued support of his evangelistic ministries. When Theology is mentioned, it is only from an outpouring of his inner being, his theology being such an intimate and indispensable part of him.
In Philippians, Paul does not reason regarding his Theologies or refute any wrong teachings. The nearest thing we can come to a specific teaching from this letter is Paul’s desire that the Church in Philippi be united (Philippians 1:27, 2:1-4, 2:20-21, 2:25, 4:2-3).
The Theme of The Letter to the Philippians
Instead of any specific Theological teaching, “Joy” is a central theme of this letter. This is apparent by the number of times Paul uses the term “joy” or “rejoice” throughout this short epistle (16 times). Since joy seems to be the main theme of this letter, what would Paul’s prayer for the Philippians be?
Maybe: “I pray that you may have joy throughout your lives.”
Or: “I pray that my joy will be your joy.”
Possibly: “I pray that you will rejoice in all that you experience.”
While these all might be secondary prayers and Paul certainly might have prayed like this for the Philippians, we do not read any of these in his letter. Instead, we see this prayer:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11
As often as we read about joy in this letter, it is not the theme of Paul’s prayer for this Church. Instead, Paul prays for the love of the Philippians to grow.
Breaking Down Paul’s Prayer
What love is this? In Philippians 1:3-8, the four sentences preceding his prayer, Paul thanks God for the Philippians because of their desire for the Gospel to be spread. It is their love of the Gospel, specifically their faith in Christ, who Jesus is and what He did, which causes Paul to have a thankful and joyful heart. Hence, the love that Paul prays about is their love for “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2).
It is a love they already have. Paul prays that this love will “abound still more and more.” The word “still” implies it is something they currently have; they already possess this love for God. Yet Paul prays that it will abound. The Greek word translated “abound” here is also translated “overflow,” “increase,” and “exceed.” Paul prays that their love for God will overflow excessively.
He could have stopped there and his point would have been made; but he doesn’t. He prays that it will abound “more.” But wait…not only abound more, but “more and more.” Are you getting the idea? Paul wants the Philippians love for God to increase so that it’s as if their love is pouring out from their every pore. He wants their love for God to be the source and central aspect of their entire life.
How to Grow in Love
So how is this kind of love attained? Paul tells them, “in real knowledge.” If the Philippians want to know how to love God abundantly more, they need to grow in knowledge. At the time of this letter, the Bible does not exist as it does today. They way the Apostolic Church grew in knowledge was by “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) and by the model of the Apostles:
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. – Philippians 3:17
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:9
Today, we no longer witness the Apostles’ walk or listen at the Apostles’ feet to their teachings. However, we still have their words, the word of God: the Bible. In these documents are the teachings that God has given us, written by the Apostles.
We can still continually devote ourselves to the apostle’s teaching. We can still learn, receive, hear and see what Paul taught and did. We have the Bible to gain the “real knowledge” that Paul taught was the key to loving God in abundance.
In other words, if we want to abound in our love for God more and more, we need to become passionate about reading our Bibles so that we can grow in our knowledge of God.
Paul then prays that the Philippians will apply that knowledge. This is what he means when he speaks of “discernment,” of approving “things that are excellent,” of being “sincere and blameless” and of being “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Knowledge by itself is good for self-development. However, knowledge applied results in discernment and wisdom. Discernment and wisdom result in godly actions and conduct.
Therefore, we find three parts to Paul’s prayer. They are given in priority order: Loving God to overflowing; knowing God by studying the Scriptures; using what you have learned in the Bible and putting it into action. These things result “to the glory and praise of God.”
Co-Opting Paul’s Prayer
This is my prayer for you and for those who are subscribers of this website. I pray that you will be fully immersed in your love for God. I pray that you will recognize it is through the knowledge of His word that you will be able to do this. I pray that you will take this love and knowledge and apply it in your life as your witness to Him.
This is the purpose of this website: to teach the truths of the Bible; to dig deeper; to get past the traditions of the Church and get into the word of God. I try to teach the meat that many teachers would rather not discuss. My desire is that the teachings you receive on this site will add new insights to your existing knowledge. My desire is that you will gain new knowledge where wrong teachings have fallen short of the Biblical truths. I do this because I believe this is the path to a deeper love for God.
Go build the Kingdom of God by your witness of the Gospel. Mature in knowledge by the study of the Bible. Grow in your love of God more and more to overflowing.