Most often prayers are primarily directed towards personal needs, be they physical or emotional health, material improvement or simply appeals for better all-round circumstances. In contrast, Paul under divine inspiration reveals a prayer charged with appeal for spiritual maturity (Phil.1.9-11). No doubt, for pedagogical reasons Paul discloses the content of his prayer to its beneficiaries. He is not just spelling out a prayer ‘for your information’ but by disclosing its intimate contents he is challenging the prayer content of those who read it, drawing attention to that which is critically important for the well-being and effectiveness of the church, namely; spiritual maturity.
Consider Paul’s prayer for a moment; “it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,” (Phil.1:9). As Paul prays for their spiritual maturity he uses the expression, “your love may abound”. I wondered why Paul chose to use the word ‘love’ in the context of the churches spiritual maturity. Was it that love would automatically reveal something of the spiritual transformation and growth happening in their midst?
So let us consider our love-tutor. God’s Word reveals the origin of this love as divine (1 Jhn.4:7) and its nature as other-centred and sacrificial.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 Jhn.3:16-18).
The great unveiling of the ultimate expression of love – Jesus Christ. Love is not a feeling or even a series of actions but it is a divine man, Jesus. Of course we see the perfect and ultimate display through his incarnation, humiliation and death as recorded a little later in Paul’s letter, but the love is true and complete because of whose incarnation, humiliation and death. God himself, Christ Jesus. The love we should possess and demonstrate is not just doing good works – many un-spiritual people would then qualify as being spiritually mature. No, the love we possess and display is a love rooted and grown out of Christ himself.
“I am confident of this, the he who has begun a good work in you shall bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:6).
It is Christ’s love which has been birthed within the believer and which will be brought to full maturity according to his purposes. But how privileged we are to be included in such a divine work, to cooperate and be a part of the love display. This is Paul’s prayer, that the church would be intentionally active in living out Christ’s love. That is, that this maturing love would provide discernment to make the best decisions; provide the ingredients for a pure & blameless testimony; enable a fruitful righteous lifestyle and result in a God glorifying life.
Ps. Deon Lombard
Being a servant of Jesus makes it a delight to reflect and write about all that God has revealed about Himself in His Word.