When a close friend said and did things that hurt me beyond belief, when my dad was diagnosed with cancer, when I was unsure what I was going to eat for the next two weeks because I didn’t have enough money for groceries, and when my son was rapidly losing weight and mobility and my wife and I had to take him to a neurologist…
In every single one of these situations, I remember struggling to know what to pray for. Do I pray that God heals? Do I pray that God takes away the pain? Do I pray for comfort? Or do I pray for God’s will to be done?
If you are ever in a similar situation, where words escape you, and you don’t know how to pray for yourself or others, then Paul’s words in Philippians 1:9-11 are a solid guide.
And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. (Phil 1:9-11 CSB)
In these verses, we discover three specifics of what to pray for one another at any given time: to grow in love, to grow in purity, and to grow in praise.
Grow in Love
In these verses, Paul is praying for the Philippians that their love would grow for one another and for everyone. It’s important to note that he’s not referring to the love that they have for God. He’s actually referring specifically to their relationship with one another and with everyone around them.
Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pray for others to grow in their love for God. After all, our love for God and our love for others are interdependent as Jesus shared in the Greatest Commandment. It’s just that in this prayer, Paul is specifically praying that the Philippians would grow in their love for one another and for everyone.
And he’s not referring to an emotional or romantic sort of love. He’s praying that the Philippians would grow in “a sober kind of love”—a love that is clear-headed, clear-minded, and not one that’s a spur of the moment.
It’s a commitment sort of love, not a non-committal-wait-and-see-if-someone-better-comes-around sort of love that’s pervasive in our culture. Essentially, he’s praying that the Philippians would grow in selfless and generous love.
Grow in Purity
Although Paul here is praying that the Philippians would grow in relational purity with one another; the fact is, you can’t have relational purity without first having individual purity. So, when you pray for yourself and for one another to grow in purity, you need to first pray that you wouldn’t be deceived or tricked by the ways of the evil one. Instead, you should pray that God would transform your mind so that you would be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
When you are praying to grow in relational purity, you are essentially praying for integrity. Just think about it like this: Imagine if your inner thoughts were on display for all to see and hear.
As you take a second look, or as you walk past that house, or see that car drive by, what would people see and hear? Would people see be the works of the flesh like, “sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness…and anything similar” (Gal 5:19-21 CSB). Or would it be the fruit of the Spirit like, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22 CSB)?
Grow in Praise
Throughout the ages, people have given their lives for different pursuits:
“For life and liberty!”
Or, “For king and country!”
So, it’s interesting how Paul ends this prayer with a similar phrase, “to the glory and praise of God,” or in another English translation, “for the glory and praise of God.” Paul ends his prayer in this way because he wants to remind the Philippians—and us—that the highest calling in life is to live for God and to give him all the credit.
Is that how you see things? Is that how you see life?
Friends, God has not only created you, but He is actively sustaining you right now because He has a purpose for your life. And that purpose is for you to glorify and praise him.
When you pray for others, God is glorified and praised. When you grow in love, God is glorified and praised. When you grow in purity, God is glorified and praised. And when there’s a greater measure of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, God is glorified and praised. After all, Jesus says, “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8 CSB)
So as disciples, let’s commit to praying regularly for one another to grow in love, purity, and praise.