Paul’s prayer for the Philippians gives us some encouragement, some hope.
It’s not always what people around us are looking for. But, popular or not, it tells us what gives true meaning and lasting satisfaction in life.
(If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, click here.)
Paul Prays for the Philippians (1:3-11)
To say a “prayer” without knowing who you’re talking to is like having a conversation with an unknown person.
The only way that prayer is of any use is if the One we’re praying to is powerful enough to answer and good enough to do what is right.
The God of creation, as revealed in His creation as well as in the Bible, is that Person.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippians presupposes that this God exists, and that He is all-powerful and righteous.
Paul is not just “sending prayers” (whatever that means when people say that now-a-days).
He is talking to a real God, asking Him to help his real friends, and he is expecting God to do just that. Why? Because it is God’s will.
Asking God to do what He already wants to do is a sure way to get your prayer answered.
And Paul is definitely sure about the answer, as we can see in the key verse of this passage.
Key Verse for 1:3-11
The New Testament was originally written in Greek. So it is helpful to look at the Greek words in a passage, in order to better understand the meaning of the passage.
It is not any kind of self-made-up confidence. It’s not faith in faith itself. It’s not just hopeful trusting, or believing in something just because it sounds good.
It is the confidence that comes from being fully persuaded that something is true and worthy of trust.
Paul is confident that God, Who began a good work in the lives of the Philippian saints, will continue it.
Besides Greek words, another helpful tool in studying the Bible is Cross References. These are other verses in the Bible that relate to the passage being studied.
So here’s a Cross Reference to Philippians 1:6.
Well, looking at the Greek word translated “will perform,” it means to complete, accomplish, finish, make perfect, bring to the desired end. The Greek word is epiteleo (ep-ih-tel-eh’-oh).
God will finish the work He has started in us, until Jesus comes back.
What do the following verses say about the work of God in us?
John 6:29 _____________________________________________________________________________________
Ephesians 2:8-10 ______________________________________________________________________________
Philippians 2:12-13 ____________________________________________________________________________
Because it is God who works in us, we have fellowship with others in the Body of Christ.
Leading up to verse 6 (in Philippians chapter 1), verses 3-5 mention this fellowship. Paul speaks of the Philippian Christians’ “fellowship in the gospel.”
God is working in us. So our fellowship with each other is based on our fellowship in Him.
In other words, because He is the One doing the work in us, we have fellowship with Him. And because we have fellowship with Him, we have fellowship with each other, in Him.
What do these verses say about fellowship?
Philippians 2:1 __________________________________
Philippians 3:10 ______________________________________
We have fellowship in the body of Christ, because of God’s work and purposes in and through us.
Our fellowship together in the body of Christ has a focus — it is Christ!
Remember, to live is Christ. We could say that to fellowship is Christ as well, for two reasons:
1. True fellowship is part of life, and to live is Christ.
2. True fellowship is only possible because of Christ.
Philippians 2:22 — Who? ____________________ Description _____________________________________
Philippians 2:25 — Who? ____________________ Description _____________________________________
Philippians 4:3 — Who (more than one)? _______________________________________________________
Fellowship together in Christ is not just being in the same room together. It’s not just playing a volleyball game together. There can be fellowship during a volleyball game, but it has nothing to do with the volleyball.
True fellowship together in Christ is something that’s in our hearts, even if we are miles away from each other. In Philippians 1:7, Paul says that he has the Philippian Christians in his heart, and that they are partakers of grace with him, even though he is in a faraway city.
That presupposes that we are participating in something. We are participating together, as fellow-members of the Body of Christ, in the grace and the work of God.
As followers of Christ, we are partakers together of God’s grace, partners in God’s work, sharing with each other and helping each other in our needs, and experiencing that deep heart-felt fellowship regardless of whether we are in close proximity to each other or not.
In verse 8 of Philippians 1, Paul elaborates more on how he feels in his heart toward the brothers and sisters in Philippi.
He says he greatly longs for them all in the affection of Christ. The very longing that Paul has for the Philippians comes from Christ.
The Greek word for “greatly I long for” is epipotheo (ep-ih-pa-theh’-oh). This is the same word used in 1 Peter 2:2, which tells us that we should “desire” the Word of God like newborn babies “desire” (greatly long for) milk.
Think of how greatly a baby desires milk. God put that desire in babies because they need milk to survive. God puts a great desire in our hearts for true fellowship because we need it and because it glorifies Him.
When we are enjoying fellowship with one another in the body of Christ, even in the longing for each other that comes with being in different locations and not seeing each other, we are at the same time enjoying God and glorifying Him.
Now I’m going to be very honest and real here.
I know, from what my kids have shared with me, that it is possible to go to youth group and come back home with a huge heart longing for the fellowship that you wish you could have gotten at church, but didn’t get. That’s not just a heart longing, but a heart ache! For not only my kids, but for me as I see them go through it.
I’m sure there are good youth groups out there. I actually was blessed to have a wonderful youth group when I was a teenager.
But I am finding now that my heart aches when I see young people at church trying to impress each other, or be cool. There is absolutely no fellowship in that.
Call it whatever you want — youth group, youth ministry, youth gathering … without Christ at the center, it’s not true fellowship. And kids go home empty, whether they admit it or not.
Some probably don’t know why they feel empty. Maybe next week they’ll try harder to impress people so they’ll feel better.
Others know why they feel empty — because Jesus was missing from the conversations and activities.
And their hearts hurt.
If you are in this situation, God knows. Come home and just spend time alone with Jesus — studying His Word and talking to Him. He cares. He has great things in store for you, if you sit at His feet, even when you feel alone.
So let’s get back to the passage here, and see what God wants for us. Paul’s prayer for the Philippian Christians shows us some of what God wants for us.
So… What Does Paul Pray For?
Philippians 1:9-11 gets more to the point about what Paul is actually asking God for, in his prayer for his brothers and sisters in Christ.
On the surface, it would seem that we could just look at the three times it says “that,” and find three prayer requests — “that your love may abound …,” “that you may approve the things that are excellent,” and “that you may be pure and without offense….”
We’ll go ahead and call these the three prayer requests, so we know what we’re talking about, but there’s a lot more to it than just a list of three requests.
One of the really great things about looking at Greek words is when you find hidden treasure that you had no idea was even there.
Just those little words — the three that‘s in 1:9-10 — are fascinating. The first and third words translated “that” are hina (hin’-uh), which means “in order that” or “so that.” But the middle “that” is eis (ace), which means “into” or “unto.”
The first request actually flows right into the second. The second would not be possible without the first.
Here is a visual to try to illustrate this.
So Paul is praying that their love would increase and overflow, even more, in correct knowledge and moral discernment, which in turn would lead right into their being able to distinguish and approve the things that are of high value (excellent). If they had moral discernment, they would have good values. The purpose of this is that they would be pure and without offense. In all of this, he prays that they would be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ. And over everything, the overall purpose and outcome is that God would be glorified and praised.
Before going on, there is one word that especially needs to be explained. The word translated “pure” or “sincere.” It is eilikrines in Greek and it has the meaning of being found pure and genuine when tested or judged in the sunlight.
Now let’s go back to the part about love. What is the significance of all this stuff being put together? Why not just pray that they have lots of love, and leave it at that?
What does love have to do with having discernment and approving what is of high value, and being pure?
They have a lot to do with each other. Look at these cross references.
God is love, and God is holy. It is because of God’s love that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to take our sin upon Himself and die in our place. Then Jesus rose again, being victorious over both sin and death.
Love without discernment or high values or purity is not enough.
If we say, “Oh, God loves me, so I can do whatever I want,” we’re not understanding what Jesus did for us.
Jesus Christ became sin for us, so we could have His righteousness. His death and resurrection make it possible for us to receive God’s love and to be made pure.
Jesus’ love for you cost Him a lot! The least we can do is give Him our lives (forgetting about what popular culture says).
As you trust in Him and rest in Him, He will make you what He wants you to be. Let His love overflow in your life. Don’t settle for the cheap stuff the world has to offer. He wants to fill your heart with love, and fill your mind with truth and discernment, and make you pure before His eyes.
Other people might look at you and think you’re strange, but as you focus your heart on Jesus, He looks at you with a tender love that will fill your heart like nothing else ever can.