Philippians 1:9-11 Devotional
Philippians 1:9-11. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Reflection. Have you ever sat down to pray for someone, only to quickly discover you’ve run out of things to ask God? Perhaps you don’t even know where to start. Part of the challenge from our previous devotional was the confidence Paul placed in prayer and his commitment to praying for others. In 1:9-11 we are given some content for our prayers (also see Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Colossians 1:9-14; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12). It is worth noting, before we get into the verses, that Paul found praying for others to be a joy (1:4) and he praised God as he remembered their faith and gospel partnership (1:3, 5). Therein exist even more challenges to how we pray and who we pray for. Now let’s think about Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in 1:9-11.
Firstly, he prays for discerning love (1:9-10). He wants to see knowledge infused love amongst Christians, “so that you may be able to discern what is best” (1:10). When we pray for increasing love in Christ’s church, something that Jesus said would mark his people, we must desire that it would go much deeper than mere sentimentality and superficial concern. A love that is wise will go deeper than vague well-wishing and clueless care.
Secondly, Paul asks God that their knowledge would lead to holiness (1:10). Paul employs similar language later, where blamelessness results in being a light in the world, distinct (2:15). Do you prize holiness in Christ’s church? Do you pray that Christians become distinguishable from the world? Let us pray for changed lives, where sin is put to death and Christ’s character is seen more and more.
Thirdly, Paul prays that God would fill believers “with the fruit of righteousness” (1:11). Later in Philippians we will learn that this righteousness is only ours through faith in Christ (3:9). But here Paul prays that through “through Jesus Christ” we might bear fruit. That includes an almost infinite range of things. In Philippians alone gospel fruits are: unity (1:27-28); perseverance in suffering (1:29-30); selflessly considering others and seeking their good (2:1-4); and refraining from grumbling (2:14), though the list could go on. As the word ‘fruit’ suggests, these are visible signs of our union with Christ, the works that result from being joined to him.
Finally, Paul’s requests are in accord with what will bring God glory (1:11). This is obvious as we review the previous three observations: Paul’s prayer very simply is that believers would be transformed by God so that God is praised. This end should always guide our prayers. We must bring those requests before him that we believe will redound to his glory.
What should we pray for others, or even for ourselves? In summary Paul prays for Christian love, character, and works. These are inseparable from a saving knowledge of Christ and also inevitable. So let’s pray that God would work powerfully, bringing the good work he began to completion, in making his church corporate and the individuals in it those who glorify him in all of life.