A lovely Prayer

Philippians 1:9-11
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so 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.

            Last week was Promise, this week is Love. The love expressed by God in His promises to His people. A love given to all His people, and inspired by the Holy Spirit St Paul expresses that love here in prayer. He doesn’t just say, ‘Hello, I love you’ he tells us not just that he prays for us, yet also what his prayer is for you. Not just a love in words, but also in action. And this love of God, expressed in prayer changes both Paul and those he prays for. Yes, teaching us something of God’s love, yet also transforming those who pray this prayer; for where the written word is there the Holy Spirit is at work. So let’s have a bit of a look at this prayer.

This prayer of St Paul, for you. And inspired by the Holy Spirit; this is The Spirit’s prayer for you too. Over and above the groanings that words cannot express (Romans 8:26), here is a clear expression of God’s love for you. God’s love for you and all His people. To pray this prayer together with Him, indeed to pray any of His prayers; it’s an action that God willing is of blessing to those we pray for, yet also an action that transforms you. Because where the written word is, there the Holy Spirit has promised to be at work (1 Timothy 3:16-17; John 16:13). And in our praying to God, especially God’s own inspired written words, the temptation of pride is defeated. That arrogant desire to make life all about me, to make me boss and all to submit to me. Instead, in praying to God Almighty we act out our trust in Him that He is above us and not our slave; and when using His own words, those words inspired by the Holy Spirit, we submit to what He Himself desires for us, we learn His love for us, and our own words, our own ways of speaking will be transformed by His words of love. So try praying this prayer for those in your life, and as I pray this for you, and we pray for each other, let’s see if God’s love abounds more and more.

After all God loves you (John 3:16; 1 John 3:1; Ephesians 2:4). He wants the best for you, and so in His Word He reveals what is best for you and for all people. Here today He tells you that Saint Paul, and God Himself, the Holy Spirit, prays that your love may abound more and more. That your affection and service grow and overflow to all those around you; your family, friends, all the people that you meet, whom God has put into your eyes. To love in word and deed, yet not a love without focus. Not a love that is a doormat, not a love guided by others desires or deceptions; rather the love of God which abounds eternally.

He prays that your love grow with knowledge and all discernment. Love coupled with truth, or we can say, the only True Love which is of God. We know there is love that is destructive, there’s love that is entirely self-centred, we call that Narcissism; there is love that just enables one’s bad habits, even affirming them down dangerous paths, giving the bottle to the alcoholic; then there is love which lives for the benefit of the other. Christ lived, died, rose and ascended for those who hated Him, He loved us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). And now God prays that you continue to listen to and live alongside Christ who is God’s Righteous Wisdom and the discerning Judge of all (1 Corinthians 1:30).

And He prays that your love grow with right knowledge, so that you approve what is excellent; that you approve God’s Love, His Word and Work, His Law and Gospel. That your love, guided toward the true, good and beautiful, recognises Christ, God Almighty, as the source and pinnacle of truth, goodness and beauty. For He is excellent, the greatness and love of His Word excels all others; the wonder and love of His Work excels any other saviour. Jesus has defeated death, bound the devil, and dealt with the sin that separates us from Him (2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 20:1-3/Mark 3:27; 1 John 2:2; John 19:30). That the Father excels all other builders, gardeners, creators; the Holy Spirit excels all other advocates, guides and gift givers. The Triune God excels all else, He is excellent, Glory to God in the Highest! and I pray we all approve and receive Him.

Him who prays that your love grow with right knowledge, to approve the excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the Day of Christ, filled with the fruit of His righteousness, to the glory and praise of God! It’s not just that you love, not just that you’re guided by the truth, not just that you receive Christ Himself; yet also that you would be ready for the Day of Christ, prepared for Christ’s birthday yes, but more so for the Final Judgement, the Day of the Lord. That you be filled with the fruit, the produce, of His righteousness; that you serve others by His strength in His love. This is the place of ‘good works’ in our lives, flowing from the love, truth and excellence you receive from God, not damming and storing within yourself, rather abounding and overflowing that others may glorify and praise God because of you. This is the prayer of Saint Paul, and it can be our prayer too.

Heavenly Father, fill us with your love that our loving abounds and overflows, with knowledge of You and all discernment; so that we approve what is excellent, what excels; and so be pure and blameless for Christmas and the Final Day of Christ, filled with the fruit that flows from His righteousness to your glory that all in our lives might praise you. We pray this with Paul, by the strength of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the Day of Christ. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.