Last week we focused on Paul’s expression of affection and his prayer for the Philippian believers. We’re going to continue this week looking at the rest of his prayer for them. Starting in verse nine, Paul’s prayer focus shifts a bit.


If you were to summarize Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in verses 3-6 in one word, what would that one word be?


If you were to summarize Paul’s prayer in verses 9-11 in the same way, what word would you choose?


Paul is shifting from a prayer of thanksgiving to a prayer of petition in our passage for today. He expresses appropriate gratitude for the Philippian church before God and today he is going to ask something of God on their behalf.


Let’s break down this prayer in outline form so that we can get to crux of what Paul is asking of God for his friends.


Outline Paul’s prayer in outline format (you know, that skill we all learned in high school but likely haven’t used since!). Be sure to make note of any modifiers Paul uses, and include those under his primary prayer points. The outline I created is below, but I would really encourage you to work through the exercise yourself before looking at mine.


Here is the outline I created:


“And it is my prayer…”


  1. That your love may abound
    1. More and more
    2. In knowledge
    3. In discernment
  2. That you may approve what is excellent
    1. And so be pure
    2. And be blameless
      1. For the day of Christ
  3. Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
    1. To the glory and praise of God


Outlining short passages like this help us understand what the Text is teaching in a deeper, more specific way. And this prayer is a great example of how the Text unfolds before us as we study it!


Paul starts by praying for the believer’s love to abound – likely both for God and for each other – and he gives three qualifiers of this love: he prays that it might increase, that their love might be directed by knowledge, and that their love might be directed by discernment. These three qualifiers of love are incredibly important when we consider the relational context that Paul is speaking into, and it speaks directly to us in our own spiritual friendships. It’s easy to believe that the only requirement for spiritual friendships to grow is to love each other more. And though that is certainly a part of Paul’s prayer, he wants their love to increase along with knowledge and discernment. We cannot grow in our love of others without also growing in knowing them; we cannot grow in love for others in a healthy way without also growing in discernment. When I think applicationally about spiritual friendships in my own life, these three qualifiers serve as guide rails for me: am I growing in loving this person more? Am I growing in knowing them better? And, am I growing in love with a healthy sense of discernment?


Consider the spiritual friendships that God has brought into your life – perhaps even recently. How might the Spirit be encouraging you to grow in your capacity for love? In your knowledge of your friends? In your discernment regarding your friendship?


Of course, Paul is not just speaking about spiritual friendships – he is praying about the Philippian believers’ relationship with God. As Christians, we are called to grow in our love for God. We can stretch our capacity for love towards God through prayer, reading His Word, and regularly expressing our love for Him. As we do, we are to grow in loving Him in knowledge as we learn more about God, and in discernment as we grow in being directed by His Spirit.


Consider your relationship with God. How might the Spirit be encouraging you to grow in your capacity for love for God? In your knowledge of Him? In your discernment of His Spirit?


I want us to close our time in the Word today prayerfully reflecting on one of my favorite hymns. If possible, read these words aloud as you ask God to grow your love for Him and others.


The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.
 O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.


When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call;
God’s love, so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.


Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.



Spend time reflecting on God’s love for you. Ask Him to grow your love for Him and for others. Pray the words of Paul’s prayer over the spiritual friends in your own life.

Author: amygannett

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  • This is one of my very favorite hymns! Thank you for sharing, as we don’t often hear it in church anymore.

    I loved the distinction of the three qualifiers of the spiritual friendship, especially discernment. I think sometimes what happens is that the discernment is there at the beginning when you’re forging the friendship to make sure it seems worth your effort, but after that, at least in my own life, I do discern (I’m an INFJ and boy do I J!) but then overlook it to preserve the friendship, even if it means less of a friendship or worse of one.

    • Sarah, what a great insight! Discernment is so critical as we build our spiritual friendships and invest in the lives of others. As a fellow INFJ, I get that! 🙂