Paul was in prison in Ephesus or modern-day Turkey. Prisoners were not fed by their jailers and depended on the support of others for their sustenance.
The church at Philippi collected money and traveled 335 miles to deliver their love offering to Paul.
Paul’s letter to the church was a “thank you” note from the apostle for their generosity and love.
Paul begins his letter with a prayer for the church. There are three petitions in his prayer that are valuable to pray at all times.
The Heart of Prayer
Before we examine the three petitions of this prayer, it is worthwhile to take a glance at the motive for praying.
Philippians 1.3-8 – I thank my God for every remembrance of you, always in every one of my prayers for all of you, praying with joy for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, for all of you are my partners in God’s grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the tender affection of Christ Jesus.
From the first constitution of the church (see Acts 16) until the writing of the letter, Paul knew the Philippians were his partners in the gospel.
When I join Paul in this prayer, I thank God for the many non-paid servants who work together to promote the good news of Jesus. I am humbled to think I have had the opportunity to serve with these lovers of Jesus and his church.
I have over 50 years of fond memories that center around men and women who partnered with each other because of God’s grace.
Bring to mind one or two servants of the Lord and join Paul in giving thanks for their partnership in the gospel. This is an excellent way to begin a prayer for the church.
Petition #1: May love overflow in knowledge and wisdom.
Philippians 1.9 – And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.
How many people in your church understand what God’s purposes are in the world?
Our first prayer is for God to reveal his plans and purposes to men and women who partner with him in the work of his grace.
No soldier or employee is sent off to do whatever they feel best. Instead, they are given assignments to fulfill.
Our prayer is for God to reveal his assignment to the church. May we know our assignment and loyally fulfill it.
Overflowing love perfectly compliments knowledge and insight.
Jesus said that love was the defining element of discipleship, “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.35).
The church will be most effective when people know what God is doing in the world and fulfill God’s mission in love.
Let’s pray for that to take place among God’s partners in his grace.
Petition #2: Prayer for wise love to result in moral discernment.
Philippians 1.9-10 – And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what really matters, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless.
I’m sure it is not the only issue, but confusion on moral and ethical issues has contributed to the loss of 1.3 million Southern Baptist members in the past three years.
This confusion is being played out in the media, politics, and the church.
What are the non-negotiable truths of the gospel? How can families and church members agree on what really matters?
God doesn’t need to hear my opinion on the difficult issues facing our world. I can join Paul in prayer and ask God to show the church what really matters.
I also can confess my need for the Spirit’s help and know that he will come to my aid.
Romans 8.26-27 – Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words.
And God, who searches hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Petition #3: Prayer for the church to be filled to overflowing with the fruit of right living.
Philippians 1.11 – Having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
The “harvest of righteousness” is displayed by the right living of God’s partners in his grace.
Returning to the tragic decline of members in Southern Baptist churches, the wrong living of church leaders, and the coverup of their crimes have doubtless added to the problem.
The prophets confronted the wrong living of their generation. The opening words of Isaiah 59 are one of many examples of wrong living that requires repentance. I recommend reading the entire chapter, but here is a sample of Isaiah’s words.
See, the Lord’s arm is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
Rather, your iniquities have been barriers
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
your tongue mutters wickedness. (Isaiah 59.1-3)
Our prayer that the church will be filled with right living partners with God is a prayer that God is waiting to hear.
Let’s pray it for ourselves and for our fellow partners in the gospel of our Savior.
I have tested negative from COVID and will join Rudy Ross tomorrow to produce YouTube videos on the Bible. You can find our videos on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.