The Apostle Paul and Praying about Praying (Philippians 1:9-11)

The following is an excerpt from Bill Mills’ book, A Gospel Worthy of Your Life: Orienting Every Resource, Attitude, and Passion around the Cross.


Because the affections of Paul’s heart were deeply knit into his brothers and sisters in Philippi, and he was now in prison, his ministry to them in this present reality was focused on prayer. He was committed to partnering with God in the work He was doing in this great church. Paul knew he could do that through prayers of intercession.

It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment. (Philippians 1:9)

Is that not a wonderful way to pray? May your love flourish more and more! In your relationships with one another, in your care for me and our work together in the gospel, in your heart for Christ, may love flow until it fills everything we are and all that we do. Along with that love, may God give you wisdom and understanding, to know Him, His ways and His purposes,

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 1:10–11)

Paul also asked God to enable his brothers and sisters in Philippi to affirm and pursue those things that are best, to live holy lives as they prepare for the return of their Lord, and to be filled up with all that flows from a right relationship with their God. Christ is the only resource that brings those hopes to reality and results in God being worshiped and glorified.

When we read Paul’s prayer for his beloved brothers and sisters, we sense that Paul is asking God to do the very things He must desire to fulfill among them! How is it that Paul prays with such understanding? I think Paul had given much thought and even prayer as he began to intercede for this church.

Rather than assume what God wanted to do in their midst or simply asking God to be with them, bless them, or provide what they needed, Paul spent time in God’s presence with a listening heart. I believe he asked God to enable him to see this church through His eyes and to cause his heart to be sensitive to what God purposed to do in them. These were the very things Paul brought back to the Lord as he interceded for his people. Then he wrote to them the very things he was asking God to do in them.

We see this same pattern of intercession in Paul’s letters to the churches at Colossae and Ephesus. He prays so knowledgeably for the people God has entrusted to him in ministry, and I believe it is because he sought the Lord in prayer, asking God to open his eyes to the needs of his people and to God’s purposes for them before he assumed what they needed or simply asked God’s blessing on them.

This is a powerful pattern for our own prayers of intercession. When we pray for our children or our parents, for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, for pastors and leaders, for missions and missionaries, and for those God has entrusted to us, it is good to “pray about praying.” We cannot assume what those people need or what God desires or just ask, “Please bless so-and-so.” Pray with knowledge, and with God’s heart, and then write to those you are praying for and tell them what you are asking God to do in and for them!

Bill Mills

Bill Mills was one of the founders of Leadership Resources International. His ministry began in youth work, where God gave him a heart for encouraging young people by teaching them the Bible. That same vision of teaching the Bible remained through the development of Leadership Resources' early church conferences and, later, with our pastoral training and work with missions. Bill’s passion was to bring the encouragement of the Scriptures to God’s people in order to equip them for ministry, and God graciously allowed him to fulfill that passion through many hundreds of conferences and workshops throughout the world. To learn more about Bill's life and ministry, visit our "Remembering Bill Mills" webpage.