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When Leaders Pray, Week Two
by Tom Goodman
May 8, 2008

We're taking a few weeks in LeaderLines to go through some of the prayers the Apostle Paul expressed for his people in his letters.  As I mentioned last week, when I was a new pastor I wrote them out on 3x5 cards, memorized them, and lifted the words up to God on behalf of my congregation.  I want to return to that practice across the next few weeks by explaining those biblical prayers in LeaderLines.  This week, let's pray the words of Philippians 1:9-11 for those we lead:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ -- to the glory and praise of God.

It's interesting what dominated Paul's intercession.  He prayed for the ever increasing presence of love in the church.  As leaders, we often think of numerical growth:  He thought of love.  We often think of meeting the church budget:  He thought of love.  We pray for a smooth-running program:  He thought of love.  "This is my prayer," he wrote, "that your love may about more and more."

Notice that there is no specific object to this love.  In other words, Paul does not pray that their love will abound toward God, toward each other, or toward the unbelieving world.  I expect he hoped their love would emanate out in all directions.

So, Paul prayed for love to flow like a mighty river -- to "abound more and more" as verse 9 puts it.  But notice that he added a phrase: "in knowledge and depth of insight."  He wanted their love to abundantly flow but also to be safely banked.  Love must be banked by truth on one side and purity on the other.

On the one hand, our congregation's river of love is to be banked by truth.  The word in verse 9 is "knowledge."  Christian truth includes the facts that God created the universe, that we will stand before him one day in judgment, and that your Bible is the perfect word from our perfect God.  Christian truth includes the facts that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins, that salvation is not at all by good works but by confident reliance on Jesus, and that Jesus calls us to give witness of our salvation.  Christian truth includes the fact that Jesus will return.  All of that, and more, is included in the word "knowledge" in verse 9.

On the other hand, our congregation's river of love is to be banked by purity.  The phrase "depth of insight" in verse 9 means moral insight.  There are certain actions, choices, and lifestyles that don't belong among those who bear the name of Christ.

Sometimes we're reluctant to correct someone's beliefs or behavior out of a fear that such confrontation would be "unloving."  Just like a flood becomes damaging and destructive if it spills over its banks, love too can bring heartbreak if it is not safely banked by truth and purity.

Now, if you start praying that way for your church, what will happen?  According to Paul's prayer in chapter 1, where love flows like a mighty river, church members will make better choices and become better people.  We see this in verses 10-11.  Paul said, "I pray that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ."

First, as love increases, your congregation will make better choices.  Notice the phrase: "discern what is best."  That came from a Greek phrase that described the assessment of metals in the ancient world.  Paul hoped that the Philippian believers would better determine the things that were excellent.  People choose jobs, entertainment, purchases, marriage partners, and much more with very little weighing, measuring, assessing, or testing to determine what is best.  But when a church's love flows abundantly through the channel of truth and purity, that church's members begin making better choices.

They also will become better people.  Paul uses three words in verses 10-11 to describe what your fellow members will be as you start praying for them.
First, they will be pure.  That's our translation of the Greek word eilikrineis, which is a combination of a word that means "to judge" and a word that means "the sun."  So eilikrineis means "to judge by the sun."  A buyer at a market in the ancient world would examine fabric by bringing it out of the shade and into the sunlight.  Likewise, you want your fellow church members to be pure when the community examines their lives.

Second, they will be blameless.  That's our translation of a Greek word that means "not causing someone to stumble."  Pray for your spiritual family until, like rooms without clutter, people will not stumble over anything in a believer's life.

Third, they will be filled with the fruit of righteousness.  They will become like trees in an orchard, loaded down with the fruit of good deeds.

A church's love flowing like a river can do all that.  You can make a difference as a church leader when you pray that the love of your church would abundantly flow through the channel of truth and purity.  That flood of love will purify your family like water washing a garment.  It will rinse away any clutter like water from a power sprayer clears a drain gutter.  And it will bring righteousness to their lives like water irrigating an orchard!


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