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Prayers of Paul – Love with Discernment – Pt. 10

We are moving on to the third of Paul’s epistle prayers. This prayer deals with our love flowing out but balanced with a high level of discernment. There is a great need for both love and discernment in the church. Let’s not forget that the main purpose of these articles is that we can better pray for those we hold before the Lord. Before we go forward let’s look at the prayer in all of its glory. 

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11)

First off, Paul asked that their love “may abound still more and more.” The word “abound” carries the idea of something overflowing or existing in excess. Paul recognized the love of God in the church of Philippi and prayed that the people would allow it to flow out of them. God has created us the same as the precious people at Philippi and we still must allow the love of God to flow out of our lives. We can keep it bottled up for ourselves or we can release it. There is a great example of this found in the Song of Solomon. The Beloved (Jesus) said of the Shulamite (bride of Christ):

“A garden enclosed
Is my sister, my spouse,
A spring shut up,
A fountain sealed.” (4:12)

The Shulamites responded:
“Awake, O north wind,
And come, O south!
Blow upon my garden,
That its spices may flow out.” (4:18a)

We can say that Paul was asking for the winds to come so that the spices (love) would flow out. One interesting thing about the “north” and “south” winds. This is an excerpt from Wade Taylor on those winds:

“The north wind represents chastening, or correction; the south wind speaks of edification and blessing.  This two-fold working of the “north wind” brings first, a correction to our spiritual walk by teaching us an application of the Word to our need; and then, secondly, blessing and edification.  The desire of the Lord is to bring us through as quickly and painlessly as possible.” (full article:

The Shulamite was asking that the wind of Spirit would blow on her so that the love would be able to flow out. But she recognized that she needed the correcting winds just as much as she needed the winds of refreshing. We must welcome the correction of the Lord just as much as we welcome the affirmation. Jesus said that He corrects those that He loves. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev 3:19)

Paul asked God that their love would be “in knowledge and all discernment.” In other words Paul was not asking for blind love. True love sees all things and yet loves anyway. God fully knew the depths and depravity of our sins and He still sent His Son to die for us. 

Discernment, in the context of this prayer, is a spiritual perception. It can be likened to a judge who has all the facts of a case and is able to make the appropriate judgement. If we have love without knowledge and discernment it will not be pure. It will be tainted. Having spiritual discernment is especially important for those that God has given a big heart to help people. Without discernment they will only be led astray and will most likely not last long. 

When I was a young believer a group of us would go feed the homeless at The Bowery Mission Center in New York City. It was a very rough area. One night I struck up a conversation with one of the homeless men. He shared his struggles with me how he was homeless and had no money. I had money in my pocket and gave him $20.00. After the meeting I told my spiritual mentor what I had done. He told me in no uncertain terms that I should not have done that because they will often use the money for drugs or alcohol. I had love without discernment. 

Paul said that abounding in love would result in two things: 

1: “that you may approve the things that are excellent.” 
2: “that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”  

1. The Greek word for approve here is dokimazō and means “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not).” The enemy is the father of lies and we need God’s discernment to know the truth from lies. This is where the love of God comes in – it is pure and reveals what is true. It is just like the rising of the sun with its rays now shining we can see the path to walk on. 

The word for excellent is an interesting one. The Greek is diapherō and means “to bear or carry through any place.” It also means “to toss about to make better.” The idea here is something akin to breaking in a baseball mitt or breaking in a new pair of running shoes. Through love in discernment God uses us to scrutinize things in order to break them in so to speak. But let’s remember this is done in the pure love of God, not the way the world scrutinizes. 

2. The result of approving (scrutinizing) the things that are excellent (broken in by carrying) is being “sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” Sincere is an interesting word and goes very well with the word approve. The Greek word is eilikrinēs and can mean one of two things (there is some debate about the word origin) 1. “found pure when unfolded and examined by the sun’s light.” or “sifted and cleansed by rapid movement or rolling to and fro.” In context the sifting idea aligns itself better. Nevertheless, we can glean truths from each idea. The important thing is that God makes us sincere – free from falsehood and pure. 

The next result of abounding love is being “without offense till the day of Christ.” The Greek word for “offense” is aproskopos and means “having nothing to strike against, not causing to stumble.” It also beautifully means “a smooth road.” God greatly desires that we would be free of anything that would cause others to stumble. Oh Lord, make us smooth roads! This without offense is until “the day of Christ.” God is looking at the long-term plan here.  
The last thing resulting from love abounding: “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Oh yes Lord, our great desire is to be filled with the fruits of righteousness and bring glory to you! 

I pray that this article will better help you in praying for those you hold before the Lord. We are asking for love to abound but balanced with spiritual discernment.

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