Interceding for Godly Character – Pt. 1
“9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 NASB)
Have you ever wondered how, what or if your brothers and sisters in the faith pray for you concerning things you’ve never mentioned to them? Sure we’ve all asked our brothers and sisters in the faith pray for us at certain times for certain situations, but what about those unsolicited prayers? More than likely we’ve never wondered about that. Honestly, it seems a bit strange; but is it really?
One thing I love about the Pauline epistles is the transparency of his prayer life. All of his epistles contain some kind of intercessory prayer. But what makes Paul’s prayer life worth studying is the consistency and the content of his prayers. I believe we all understand that we’re to consistently commune with our Lord, but do we consider the content of our prayers? If we’re honest we’ll admit that we often pray very selfishly and for temporal issues. Paul doesn’t pray that way exclusively. He consistently prayed for others and the content of his prayers were spiritual, not temporal frivolity. When he did pray for himself, it ultimately was for the advancement of the gospel or for the glory of Christ.
After thanking the Philippians for their continual support of him (vv3-8), Paul transitions into an exhortational intercessory prayer for them. Paul’s prayer consisted of three things: (1) for their love to abound through knowledge and discernment (2) approving of excellent things as to be sincere and blameless and (3) that their lives will be filled with the fruit of righteousness ultimately for the glory and praise of God.
It is obvious the Philippian church was a loving community, but Paul prayed for their love to abound. This thought parallels with Jesus’ words in John 13:34 and Mark 12:31b, which is the fulfillment of the Law. In our culture love is often portrayed or thought of subjectively. People often mistake high favorable emotions or passion for love. It is so much more than that. Genuine love, godly love, does not merely consist of our satisfied or pleased emotions, but it is composed of right actions toward others to magnify His essence. That is the objective part of love. Paul’s prayer is that the Philippian church would grow in this love; but notice how it grows. He says it grows through real knowledge and all discernment. Paul refrains from using our emotions as a measuring stick for increasing love.
Knowledge is the greek word epignosis. Discernment is the greek word aisthesis. Epignosis refers to a knowledge of God, His character and will in order to avoid moral failure. This is more than an intellectual knowledge. It is a knowledge that comes from intimate communion with God. Aisthesis refers to understanding based on living morally and ethically toward others and being a tactful person. Tact is defined as a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations.
What a prayer! More than anything, Paul desired that their lives would reflect godly character relationally. Later in Philippians we’ll see why that is so important as it pertains to how God wants to reveal Himself to the world and radically transform culture. What about us? Do our lives reflect this abounding love and skillfull living? Do we pray for our brothers and sisters character to display more love and godliness? It’s a shame that we don’t see these types of prayer concerns on mainstream Christian television. Instead we are inundated with the greed and deception of prosperity teachings that teach that godliness is a means to financial gain. Paul never prayed that way. Jesus never prayed that way. Let us prosper the way God intended and that is by being conformed to the image and character of His Son by loving and praying for our brothers and sisters in the faith with sincerity.