Beyond Grace and Peace
Have you ever taken a moment and read Paul’s greetings and closings of his letters? He made a point to draw attention to grace and peace. He loved his people. The people that God entrusted him to shepherd. Paul poured into them regardless of his own situations. Through pain, imprisonments, trials and persecution, he continued to minister to them.
Paul loved his flock.
While this is evident throughout his letters, there is a passage in particular that strikes me. His obvious passion and love for his flock shines through here, as he details his desires for them.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.Philippians 1:9-11
Paul did not just leave it at grace and peace. He didn’t just leave it at giving good instruction to his flock with regard to living a life in pursuit of Jesus.
Paul prayed specifically, for them.
He understood the hardships and dangers that they would face as they grew in their faith. He knew first hand what following Jesus, fully devoted with your life, could lead to. He knew that the road ahead for the sheep entrusted to him would be difficult and dangerous.
Do we pray like this? Do we petition God that the believers in our life would grow in their love for Jesus and others? Do we pray that they would have knowledge and discernment, an understanding of not just what is bad but what is best? Is our desire for them to be pure and blameless before God?
Do we exhibit a love for others in this way as Paul did for his people?
Praying for other people can be hard. Especially when they mess up and continually make mistakes. Or they are not growing at a pace we think is appropriate. Our prayers can easily turn to complaints before God. Paul had his moments of frustration with the churches he planted. He was constantly addressing conflicts and false teaching, often let in by the ones he entrusted the church with when he left.
But these issues did not stop him from praying specifically for them. He didn’t restrain his love and concern for them because of their mistakes; something He came to understand the importance of first hand in his own life. He desired above himself that they would become fully, more deeply devoted followers of Jesus. Do we do that?
Do we take time to pray for others in a way that exhibits true love? Or do we fall victim to contentment in “Lord you know what they need” and leave it there? Do we actively petition God to grow them in love, knowledge, and discernment, that their faith would be more evident by the fruit they bear.
That’s challenging for me, even as a Pastor. What would our community look like if we prayed like Paul did? What would our church be like if we approached God in petition for the growth of His people?
I’d venture to think we would have a new sense of depth in our faith and commitment to Jesus. I’d venture to expect a growth in the size of our community.
I’d expect more people to follow Paul’s example of praying for their brothers and sisters in Christ, that they too would grow in love, knowledge and discernment.
What if we didn’t just play the what if game, and actually started praying with intentionality?
That’s when we will see the power of God unleashed, the Holy Spirit move, and Jesus rescue souls.
I think Paul understood this. Do we?