In Philippians chapter 1, not only does Paul say that he has the church in his mind and in his heart, but he also has the church in his prayers. Paul then shares five ways in which he prays for the church. These are five phenomenal ways for you to pray for your church wherever you attend.
Paul prayed that the church's love would grow. Verse 9 says, “And this I pray that your love may abound.” It's actually the idea of flooding. Paul is praying that the church's love would flood or overflow. Why is that important? Before Jesus died, was resurrected and ascended back in to heaven, He gave a new command to his disciples which was to love one another. Jesus said that by this one thing all men would know that we are His disciples. That one thing was not the buildings we would build, the style of our worship, the quality of our programs, or the personality of our pastors. The one thing Jesus spoke of was our love for one another in the church. If we will truly love one another we will stick out like a sore thumb and the world will see it and the world will know that we are followers of Jesus Christ. As a result, Paul prayed that the church's love for each other would grow.
Paul prayed that the church would make wise decisions. At the beginning of verse 10 he says, “So that you may approve the things that are excellent.” Every day leaders in the church have to make decisions for the church. You know what I've discovered? It's going to shock you. Leaders in the church never make a decision that every single person likes. Someone is always disappointed. I like what I heard John Ortberg say, “Leadership is disappointing people at a rate they can stand.” That's a pretty good definition of leadership right there. Folks, listen, we can't all be in on the decision making process but we can all be part of praying for those who do make the decisions.
Paul prays that the church would avoid sin. The end of verse 10 says, “That you may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.” If you are old enough you will remember a time in the American church when the church of Jesus Christ took a real beating because some highly visible leaders in the church fell. And you know what happens when one visible person in the church falls? It affects the reputation of all in the church. You know what happens when one person who attends your church lives a hypocritical life outside of the church? It affects the reputation of everybody in your church. We need to pray for each other, especially for our leaders in the church, that we will avoid sin. It takes years, even decades, to develop credibility. It takes minutes to lose it. So Paul says that when it comes to praying for the church, we need to pray that the church would avoid sin.
Paul prayed that the church would be involved in serving. Look at verse 11 – “Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness.” We need to pray that the church will have an influence in our community, that the church would be outward focused, that the church would make a difference. The sad fact is that there are many churches in America that could close their doors today and their community would not even notice they were gone.
That's one of the things that drew me to the E-Free Church here in Gaylord, Michigan. I remember when my family came, our first visit to Gaylord. We were walking through the town and wherever we walked we would ask people about the Evangelical Free Church. We were amazed. People everywhere spoke so highly of it and they had all heard of it. We went into one store where there was a greeter. Somehow that greeter could tell we were not locals. I'm not sure how he knew. It's not like we had cameras around our necks but he knew. When I asked him about the E-Free Church, he said, “That church is the best thing this town has going.” I said, “Really? How long have you attended?" He said, “I don't go there. I attend a different church but that church is the best thing this town has going.” E-Free Church is a church that has had and is still having an impact on our community and we need to pray that this continues.
Paul prayed that the church would bring glory to God. The end of verse 10 says, “Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” Folks, listen. We don't do what we do in order that someday people will go, “Wow! What a church!” That's not why we do what we do. What we deeply desire is that God will use us in such a way that people all over northern Michigan will hear about it, will see it, will experience it, and go, “Wow! What a God that church serves.” We need to pray that we as a church will bring glory to God.