3 I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. 4 I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. 5 I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. 6 I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. 7 I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. 8 God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. 10 I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. 11 I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.
As the apostle Paul wrote to his friends in the city of Philippi, he encouraged, affirmed, and connected with them, expressing his deep gratitude for their support in prayer and tangible gifts. (He was in prison at the time.) He prayed that their love might keep deepening, enriched by growing knowledge and insight into God’s purposes. That, he said, would empower them to live “sincere” (i.e., not hypocritical) lives, and to discern “what really matters.” Living with that kind of insight-fueled discernment and honesty would fill their lives with “the fruit of righteousness” in ways that gave “glory and praise” to God.
Lord Jesus, I’m not interested in pretending to be spiritually complete. I want a life genuinely filled with the spiritual fruit you wish to grow in me. Shape me as you did Paul and his first-century friends. Amen.
* Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 85). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** Homer A. Kent, Jr., comment on Philippians 1:9, 11 in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged: New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994, p. 791.
Have you ever been talking to someone, maybe you mention a need or concern and at the end of the conversation they mention that they will be praying for you? I’m a pretty positive person, and I don’t like being cynical, but I often walk away thinking, “Really? Are they really going to remember to pray for me or that issue?” I have gotten into some trouble over the years when I would catch myself saying that exact thing to someone, like it was just the Christian thing to say, but I didn’t end up praying for them. Those words easily rolled out of my mouth, but they didn’t actually hold up. It’s not that I didn’t want to, or that their concern wasn’t worthy of my prayer time…I would just maybe forget and life would get busy, you know? Please tell me I am not alone in this?!
Being intentional, real and honest about prayer is big time. I love chapter 1 of Philippians, but verses 3-11 sure challenge me when I really dig into them. How can Paul be praying with joy and thanksgiving, having concern for others and lifting others up while sitting in prison no less? He was sincerely thinking of others before himself because he knew that prayer works and prayer matters.
When we begin to pray for people, what does it do? Prayer engages our hearts. It helps us care about each other. I am reminded that it’s not all about me. As we pray, let’s ask God to grow our affection, our feelings, our love, our hearts for those people we’re praying for.
Over the years, I have witnessed and experienced the power of prayer for myself and for others. And I have seen the fruit that comes from giving it over to the God that hears, knows, and loves each one of us. I also remind myself to pray like God is at work. Because He is.
Philippians 1:11 talks about being filled with the fruit of righteousness. What exactly is that? The fruit of righteousness is a life that has truly been changed by Jesus and is bearing fruit. Every aspect of who we are, from our identity, how we treat our family, friends and our neighbors, when we mean what we say, and how we live when nobody is watching--everything is being transformed by Jesus.
I want to be filled with the fruit of righteousness, don’t you? So I promise you this…if I happen to say I am going to pray for you, you can trust that it means everything and that I really will. I won’t say it just to say it. I’m going to be confident, like Paul, that prayer really works and prayer really matters
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