“And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in real knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”- Philippians 1:9-11
So often I hear the same old phrases being repeated by others in prayer: “Lord, we ask you to bless”; “Lord, we ask you to be with”; “Lord, we ask you to heal”; “Lord, we ask you to give”. There is nothing wrong in asking the Lord to do these things for others but If we restrict our prayers for each other by just praying for each other’s needs will we ever really grow in our love for God and for each other? I would suggest that the answer is no. God has provided some great truths about prayer in His word and He has provided a wonderful example for us through the Apostle Paul who prayed for his dear friends in Philippi. My desire is to share this prayer with you so that you can better pray for others.
Paul had a deep love for these Philippian believers. In the verses before this prayer Paul says things like “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying for you with all joy in my every prayer” (1:3-4); “… I have you in my heart” (1:7); “… I deeply miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” It is one thing to love someone; it is quite another to express that love. Paul found himself in prison while writing this letter and though he longed to be with his friends he couldn’t. Therefore he told them he loved them and showed that love by praying for them to grow in their love. This brings us to Paul’s prayer. He prays for these believer’s to grow in two specific aspects. Today we will look at the first aspect of his prayer.
1. Growing in godly loving
“that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment”.
These believers had shown their love for Paul many times over the years. When Paul found himself in financial need during his missionary trips guess who provided him with aid? The Philippians. Even while Paul was in prison writing this letter they sent Epaphroditus to check on his well being. This man represented the spirit of the church and their love for Paul. Yet no matter how much these guys loved Paul, he prayed that their love would deepen and intensify. The Greek word picture behind the word “growing” is that of a bucket standing under a giant waterfall, with the water flowing over all the sides because it cannot contain the downpour of water. Similarly Paul prays that the love of these believers would be like that bucket that overflows with love and that cannot be contained.
This love is not merely emotional but rooted in knowledge or specifically “real” knowledge (epignosis). This real knowledge is not merely just knowing the facts but goes beyond the facts to putting those facts into practice. This can be illustrated by the analogy of learning to drive a car. A person may know what to do to drive a car (Put the car in gear, hold in the clutch, release clutch while giving some petrol etc.) but it is a whole different story actually driving the car. There is a difference between knowing what to do (science of driving) and actually driving the car (art of driving). The point is this: God desires that we all learn the art of loving (real/experiential knowledge) Him and others.
Discernment goes even further than knowledge, the art of knowing. Discernment comes from learning from experience. When a person eventually learns how to drive a car they will gain from experience how to become better drivers (E.g. Learn defensive driving so as to avoid the consequences of other people’s reckless driving). The big picture is that our love be guided by experiential knowledge and learning from life’s experiences.
As we reflect on these truths may we strive, by God’s grace, to incorporate them in our prayers for each other. It is a privilege to pray for each other’s needs but even greater to pray for each other’s spiritual growth. My prayer for you all is that God will help you to love Him and people more and to love them all better. May we all be like that bucket that cannot contain the downpour of water as we allow the Spirit of God to apply the scriptures to our lives each day.