That Paul cared deeply for the believers in Philippi (he “had them in [his] heart” vs. 7) is seen in his prayers for them. Words are simply words, no more, unless they genuinely express reality. Paul’s deep concern for his readers is clearly reflected in his prayer. It would take at least a complete volume to do justice to Paul’s words on prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 but I will limit my thoughts to what seems to be of special importance to me in my life right now.
The first thing is that love can grow not only in an emotional sense but also in “knowledge and depth of insight” (vs. 9). We are able to learn what love is, but also how it can transform life and provide insight into life’s problems. Perfect love is intelligent and understands how best to express itself in daily life. This infers that love in an imperfect state, while intending to do what is right, may on a specific occasion do what is be harmful. This is seen in a relationship where an informed love will hold a person accountable rather than provide him an excuse for self-destructive activity. Intelligent love does the right thing, not necessarily what is prompted by an emotional urge.
Paul goes on to say that this kind of love discerns what is best – it helps a person “understand what really matters,” as the NLT has it. Intelligent love provides the moral discernment that leads to correct action. I have argued before that love is primarily volitional and that the choices of life are always easier when we understand not only the issue involved but the unintended consequences as well. Many a life has been ruined not because the choice was clearly wrong but because while it seemed okay the result was inevitable. An informed love is far less likely to head down the wrong path.
I believe it can be summed up in a phrase my grandmother used so often, “sanctified common sense.” Genuine love doesn’t break the bonds of custom to prove that it belongs in some more lofty sphere, but is informed by a rational understanding of which course of action is better for everyone involved. It is not fantasy but factuality. Blind love may be well intentioned but Paul says that love with its eyes wide open (read “informed and insightful”) is what prepares us to live a pure life now and be ready for “the day of Christ’s return” (vs. 10