A Preacher’s Prayer

Title: A Preacher's Prayer

Bible Book: Philippians 1 : 9-11

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Prayer; Fruitfulness; Priorities



I’ve entitled this message, “A Preacher’s Prayer.” These verses record the apostle Paul’s prayer for his friends at Philippi--but I want you to know that the prayer recorded in those verses is also my prayer for you, my good friends who make up this congregation. It is my prayer for myself, as well, and for all other believers--and I hope that you’ll make it your prayer for yourself and for others, Connie and me included--but it is definitely my prayer for you who have come to mean so much to Connie and me.


In verse 9 we see the first part of Paul’s prayer: “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.”


Paul clearly implies, by the terminology he uses, that this love of which he speaks already exists--but, because we are only human, we never fully “arrive”--not in this life. So, he prays that their love may increase, that it might flourish even more.


Toward whom is that love to be directed?

1. GOD

Paul is no doubt referring first of all to their love for God, for Jesus said that the first and great commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

How does a person come to love God? It starts by realizing what he has done to make salvation available to all people. Suppose that you were trapped in a blazing inferno, with no way to save yourself, but then some brave, caring person, at great personal cost, fought his way through those flames and brought you to safety. The normal reaction would be to love that person; to honor him; to do everything possible to relate to that person in a positive way. Well, Jesus did for you and me something far greater than rescuing us from a burning building; by his death on the cross, where he paid the penalty for our sins, he made it possible for us to avoid an eternal, burning hell. Because of what he did on that cross, all who repent and believe in him receive the gift of eternal life--and when that happens, there is ignited within our hearts a love for him. 1 John 4:19 declares, “We love him, because he first loved us.”

However, Paul says, “I am praying that your love will become stronger.” There is always room for improvement. The Bible teaches that from the moment of conversion until the day we die, we are to grow spiritually--and that includes growing in our love for Christ.

When you and I fail in our efforts for Christ, it is not usually due to a lack of resources or a lack of know-how, as important as these factors are in their place. It is usually because we have allowed our love for Jesus to wane and weaken. If you and I individually, and if we collectively as a church, will make growing in our love for Christ our number one focus, everything else will fall in place. If we love Christ as we ought, nobody will have to beg us to attend faithfully, or to accept our fair share of responsibility in financial support or in ministry and outreach. Our number one yearning ought to be that expressed by the song-writer:

“More love to Thee, O Christ, More love to Thee....”


Also, we all need to grow in our love for other people. Jesus told us, in Matthew 22:39, that the second greatest commandment is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” All around us folks are hurting, yearning for someone to really care.

The Greek word translated “abound” in verse 9 means “overflow,” and could be thus translated. There was a lot of love in the church at Philippi, but what Paul was praying was that their love would become so great that it would overflow into the city and throughout the world. That’s my prayer for this congregation. There is a lot of love in this church--and I pray that it will continue to grow so that its overflow pours throughout this entire community and far beyond.

D. L. Moody told of a little boy who walked all the way across town to attend a certain church. Someone asked him, “Son, there are several churches closer to where you live. Why do you walk past all of them to attend that particular church?” The little boy answered, “Because they love a fellow over there.”

The love that God commands us to practice is to include all others--even our enemies. In Matthew 5:46-47, Jesus said, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans the same?”

Christians are supposed to be different--and sometimes loving our enemies will melt their hostility. Edwin Markham said it like this:

“He drew a circle that shut me out, Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;

But love and I had the wit to win; we drew a circle that took him in.”


But how is it possible to love someone who mistreats you, or even hates you? Here is how: Remember that Jesus commands us to love our enemies; and a command is primarily an appeal to the will, not to the emotions. So, we must make a hard-nosed decision to love our enemies, and deal with them accordingly--and if we do that, God will, over time, soften our hearts. Sometimes you have to lead with your will and let your emotions catch up when they can.


Also, we ought to grow in our love for God’s church. Ephesians 5:25 tells us that “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” That being true, it is utterly indefensible for a Christian not to love his church, and not to demonstrate his love by loyal support and active participation.


Now, notice the way in which Paul describes this love of which he speaks in his prayer. Look again at verse 9: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.” Paul is praying that his friends may express their love intelligently.

Dr. James Dobson coined the term, “tough love”--and that’s a good term. We are, for example, to love our children, but that doesn’t mean that we’re to pamper them, or let them “off the hook” when they’ve done wrong. So it is with all others: we’re to love them, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t to hold them accountable. For example, we’re to love criminals, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t require them to pay the penalty for their crimes.

Real love, real Christian compassion, expressed with knowledge and good judgment, will solve a multitude of problems and prevent many others.


In verse 10 is the second part of Paul’s prayer: “That ye may approve things that are excellent....” The Moffatt translation puts it like this: “That you may have a sense of what is vital....” In other words, Paul was praying that all of his friends in Philippi might keep their priorities straight--and all of us need to pray that for ourselves, and for one another.


In 1 Kings a certain prophet told a hypothetical story, with himself as the supposed culprit, in order to make a point to the king of Israel. In the story, the prophet was given the responsibility of guarding an important prisoner. He was told that if he allowed this prisoner to escape, he could very well pay with his own life, or at the very least there would be an enormous fine imposed. But when his superior came back to check on the situation, the prisoner had escaped. And when an explanation was demanded, here was the derelict prophet’s weak-kneed response, recorded in 1 Kings 20:40: “...as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone.”

That is the tragedy of many of our lives. We intend to make a greater effort to deepen our devotional life, or we intend to spend more time with our spouse and our children, or we intend to become more faithful in our church obligations, or we intend to begin a program of exercising and taking better care of our physical bodies--but we get busy “here and there,” and before you know it the opportunity is gone. The sad story of many a life is expressed in the following lines:

“Some men die by shrapnel, Some go down in flames;

But most men perish inch by inch, By playing at little games.”


May the Lord help every one of us to take to heart the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” If we put Christ first and ask his guidance for all areas of life, we won’t fall into the trap of misplaced priorities.


Notice the third part of Paul’s prayer, in the last part of verse 10: “that ye may be sincere and without offense....” One modern translation renders it like this: “not stumbling, or causing others to stumble....”


Jerry Vines points out that the word “sincere” comes from two Latin words, “sine” and “cere,” which mean literally, “without wax”--and he tells of how the word was used in the furniture industry in olden days. Sometimes when a piece of fine furniture would have a crack or some other indention in it, a dishonest dealer would fill the crack or other flaw with wax and then cover it so that it was not immediately detectable. However, over the course of time the wax would melt and the buyer would discover the flaw and realize that he had been deceived. Honest furniture dealers started placing on their furniture a label: “sine cere”--“without wax.” Paul was praying that we who name Christ as Savior will be genuine--that we will practice what we preach.


Someone tried to witness to Frederich Nietsche, the cynical German philosopher. Nietsche said, “If you want me to believe in your Redeemer, you are going to have to look more redeemed.”

I would never minimize the importance of Christians giving a verbal witness. However, all our words will amount to nothing unless we back them up with a clean, Christ-honoring lifestyle. The poet was right when he said:

“We are the only Bible the careless world will read,

We are the sinner’s gospel, We are the scoffer’s creed.

We are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word.

What if the lines are crooked? What if the type is blurred?”

Titus 3:8 declares, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.”


But that isn’t quite all. Paul said, in verse 10: “that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” In other words, Paul was saying, “My prayer is that you will not be “on again, off again,” but that you’ll be consistent til the very end.”

George Truett told the story of a Christian man who had long tried to win to Christ a worldly, skeptical young woman. He was a Godly man, with a genuine compassion for others, and in spite of rejection after rejection he continued to pray for this young woman and to witness to her. She lived in surroundings that were unfavorable to her becoming a Christian. But finally, through observing his consistent, uncompromising life, she was saved--and here’s what she told the man. She said, “I do believe in Christ, because I believe in you.”

Colossians 1:27 speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The only hope of some people coming to know the Lord and thus glorifying God in their lives is for them first to see Christ in you and me.” May the Lord help you and me not to let them down.


But Paul didn’t simply pray that his friends at Philippi might avoid evil--he also prayed that, on the positive side, they might be productive for the Lord. Verse 11: “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness....”


God intends that our Christian walk be more than simply a list of “Thou shalt not’s.” Vance Havner told of a man who claimed to have gotten right with the Lord--and here was what he claimed as evidence of it: he said, “I don’t drink, I don’t cuss, and I don’t run with wild women.” Vance Havner replied, “Well, neither does a gate post.”

Of course a child of God is to refrain from those things that are sinful and destructive--but God expects that we also go beyond that. There is a positive side to Christian living. We are to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness”--and if our lives do not produce righteous fruit, that is evidence that we’re deceiving ourselves, and not building on the foundation that we claim to be building upon. Here’s what Jesus said, in Matthew 7:16-20:

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a  corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”


In terms of personal character, the fruit that is to be produced in our lives is identified in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” It is powerfully important that we believers spend time in God’s Word and in prayer so as to allow God to produce that fruit in our lives.

But the ultimate goal of the believer should be to win others to the Savior. The fruit of an apple tree is apples; the fruit of a peach tree is peaches; and the ultimate fruit of a Christian is more Christians.


But notice that Paul said, “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ.” There is only one way we can be fruitful Christians. In John 15:4-5 Jesus said:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”


Also, if we’re to be effective, our motive must be right. Look again, please, at verse 11: “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”

The late Bobby Moore, longtime pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Olive Branch, Mississippi, didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I’ve heard him give his testimony. Both parents were lost. His father was an alcoholic. Bobby was saved when he was 19 years old, and God radically changed his life. Neither of his parents came to see him baptized. Bobby would begin each day on his knees, and end each day on his knees, crying for God to save his parents. His mother was eventually saved, but his father was still bitter and unresponsive, in spite of the fact that he was in and out of the hospital with a serious heart condition. Bobby would try to talk to him, but his dad would say, “Son, if that’s all you’ve got to talk about, I don’t want to hear it. Just get out.”

One day Bobby was praying with a deacon friend named Robert Dickerson. They were praying for Bobby’s dad to be saved. Bobby prayed, “Lord, please save my daddy. My mother has had such a hard life, and she needs a Christian husband.” Robert Dickerson put his hand on Bobby’s shoulder and said, “Bobby, you’re praying for your daddy to be saved for the wrong reason. You need to pray that your daddy will get saved in order that God will receive the glory that he deserves out of your daddy’s life.”

That deacon’s words struck a responsive chord in Bobby’s heart, and he began praying that way. His daddy went to the hospital again, in critical condition. That deacon, Robert Dickerson, went to that hospital room and won Bobby’s dad to Christ, and there were tears of rejoicing over that great victory. In the course of telling about that blessed experience, Bobby Moore said, “The ultimate end of all praying is the glory of God.”

Paul’s prayer for his friends at Philippi was that they might bring forth fruit “unto the glory and praise of God”--and that’s my prayer for you dear friends of this congregation. I pray that the theme of your life and mine will be that expressed by the song writer:

“To God be the glory, great things He hath done;

So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,

Who yielded His life an atonement for sin.”

And opened the life gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the earth hear His voice!

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the people rejoice!

O come to the Father, thro’ Jesus the Son,

And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.

Are you glorifying God in your life? Have you repented of your sins and by faith accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? If not, I challenge you to do so this very night. If you’re already a believer, are you letting your light shine for him, so as to bring glory to his name? If not, this would be a great time to rededicate your life to him, and to resolve that by his grace and help you’re going to make a new beginning--starting immediately.


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