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.
(Philippians 1:9-11 ESV)
Over the past few days we’ve been looking at this prayer from Paul. Notice that it is short and simple. When we pray to God we don’t need to use a lot of words. Nor do we need to use fancy, theological jargon. This prayer of Paul’s is no more than fifty words, yet it reflects his love and care for the Philippians as it focuses on their spiritual growth.
Paul is very specific in his prayer. He doesn’t make a general request that God “bless the people of Philippi”. While such a prayer isn’t necessarily wrong, it isn’t very good. Paul knew exactly what the Philippians needed because He knew what is important to God. He learned this from reading Scripture. We can’t truly pray for anyone else until we know what it is that God wants for them. God tells us what He wants for us in the Bible.
When we read and study the Bible, and ask God for wisdom [James 1:5] we will learn more about what God thinks. Then our prayers can be aligned with His goals for us. Remember, the goal of prayer is not to change God’s mind. The purpose of prayer is to change our way of thinking so that it is like God’s.
Notice, too, what Paul does not pray for. He does not pray for the Philippians health (although that is important) or for material wealth (which is often not important). Again, praying for these things is not necessarily wrong. Sometimes people need to be healed of an illness or need a job. But its more important for our prayers to focus on a person’s relationship with God.
We need to be praying that people who are not saved come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. And we need to be praying that those who already are adopted into God’s family become more like Christ. This is God’s goal for all people [2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:13]. This prayer of Paul’s is a great example of how to do that.
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