Prayer as Petition (1:9-11)

Since Paul's thanksgiving for his Philippian friends takes place in the context of his praying for them (vv. 3-4), he now goes on to spell out the content of his prayer. Here are some specifics regarding the "good work" begun in them which he repeatedly prays God will bring "to completion" on "the day of Christ."

The prayer report is also a single sentence, whose overall concern and meaning seem clear enough. The connections between the various parts can be easily traced:

Paul prays (1) for their love to abound yet more and more;

that (2) this be accompanied by full knowledge and moral insight,

so that (3) they might approve those things that really matter,

so that (4) they might be unsullied and blameless when

Christ returns,

as (5) they are now full of the fruit of righteousness,

fruit that is (6) effected by Christ Jesus

and (7) for the glory and praise of God.

Items 1, 2, 3 and 5 thus give the "what" of his prayer; item 4 gives the "why"; and item 6 offers the means to the (ultimate) end expressed in item 7. The "what" begins on a familiar note, that their love grow still more and more. It ends on a similar note, that they bear the fruit of righteousness. The middle item (3), though a bit puzzling, is likewise concerned with behavior—that their knowledge (of God) and moral insight (into God's will) also increase so that they may test and approve what really counts. The whole, therefore, is singularly concerned with their behavior, with the ethical life of the believer in Christ.

Paul in part prays for the continuation of the very things for which he has just given thanks. This should surprise us none, since both reports reflect the same basic theological framework—present existence in Christ as both "already" and "not yet." This is where the "what" and the "why" join: Paul's prayer for them is that they might live the life of the future in the present, so that they might thereby be blameless at its consummation on the day of Christ. The concern is with present life in Christ; the orientation is toward its consummation—that they live for Christ now, and do so in light of his coming day.

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