A Borrowed Prayer

Do you have a “life verse”? Sometimes in conversations and in conferences I asked individuals that question. I thoroughly enjoy hearing the explanations as to why these persons came to claim the verse or verses as their own. It is really a testimony wrapped up in a verse or two.

My practice has been slightly different relative to a “life verse.” Each year I prayerfully consider what verse or brief passage of Scripture epitomizes my hopes and dreams for the coming year. In the past, I have been led to Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 3:10, Philippians 1:6, and this year II Corinthians 5:14.
The verse or passage is used by me every day of the year. When I do handwritten notes and e-mails, I will sign my name and then point the reader to the reference from the Bible. It is just a simple but substantive reminder to me, more than anyone else, that this challenge or promise from God’s Word is ever before me for a variety of reasons.

This year I have returned to Philippians, which is my favorite Pauline epistle. The Scriptural reference is found in the first chapter, verses 9-11. It is essentially a prayer from the heart of the apostle to the people of Philippi and to us today. Recently, the text captivated my attention as I read it from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Verse 10 really gave me much to consider, and ultimately the prayer of Paul became my prayer for 2008. I am not ashamed to admit that this is a borrowed prayer.

Join me in praying the prayer of the great apostle found in this text: “And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that [comes] through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

My prayer for 2008 is grounded in the heartfelt petitions Paul expressed to his friends in Philippi. These simple but profound prayer requests are from my attudinal template for the year to come. Consider with me the three basic prayer petitions the apostle offers in this text.

First, I pray that I will develop a growing love for Christ and others.

In verse nine, Paul abounds in his desire to see believers grow in their love life. He presupposes that Christians will grow in their love for the Lord, but he ties that reality to the need for a growing love for others. He links love and knowledge in a unique way. If we love someone we grow in knowledge of the person. In our love of Jesus, we learn more about who He is and who we are as people of faith. The same principle is true of our love for others. Real love grows as we come to know each other. That is the distinguishing badge of Christian discipleship (John 13:35).

Second, I pray that I will develop a more discerning look at the present and future.

The words of verse 10 just jump off the pages and compel me to take more than just a cursory look at this important challenge. Paul said, “…so that you can determine what really matters.” Now that speaks to me in a truly personal fashion. A discerning spirit helps me to determine what really matters in life. This spirit flows from a growing love for the Lord and for others. If you and I are in love with Jesus, we will love others the way we should and we then can determine our priorities in life in a more effective way. Our love life determines the way we live and what gains our attention as well as receives our resources.

You and I would do well to remember every day of life what Paul has challenges us to do. “Keep your life pure and progressive so you can determine what really matters.” In 2008, I am going to ask myself some very important questions. Is my love life growing? Am I determining what really matters? Like Paul, I want to exemplify a “this one thing I do” kind of philosophy as a Christian who seeks to lead others.

Third, I pray that I will develop a more fruit-bearing life as a testimony of God’s glory.

A growing love and a discerning spirit will lead to a fruit-bearing lifestyle. Paul speaks of it as being “filled with fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

I do not have any righteousness of my own which can bear fruit. All the fruit I can bear comes from the righteousness given to me by Christ. His righteousness lives in me and through, as is true of every one of His followers. I really need to remember that basic truth every day of my life and I will do my utmost to be sure that is true for 2008.

In II Corinthians 5:21, the apostle Paul set forth a brilliant and brief explanation of this gift of righteousness, “He (God) made the One (Jesus) who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” I do not understand this mystery, but I praise God for it. Jesus has given to me, and to all His people, righteousness or right standing before the Holy God. He also has come to live in our lives and to bear the fruit of this righteousness.

These three petitions are essentially my daily prayer for the coming year. If I can personify them, then I can discover a more fully developed Christian worldview. As I have studied the verses, I came to the conclusion that, for me, they express the very intent of LEADERconnect. To connect with God, purpose and others means I must have a growing love, a discerning look, and a fruit-bearing life.

Now for what reason? Paul answers that question too. He says all of this is to be “to the glory and praise of God”. Peterson offers this paraphrase of the text, “So this is my prayer, that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul. Making Jesus attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.”

I want that to be my prayer. I would like it to be your prayer too. Together let us pledge to develop a growing love, a discerning look and a fruit-bearing life for the glory and praise of God. I pray that 2008 will be a turning point for God’s glory in your life and mine. Thank you Paul, the apostle, for letting me borrow your prayer.

Executive Director of Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

State Missionary Rick Lance was elected in June of 1998 to serve as executive director of the State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Rick leads state missions efforts and facilitates Great Commission Ministries for the Convention's 3,200+ churches and more than one million Alabama Baptists.

Rick and his wife, Pam, are members at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. They have two daughters.

Any requests for Rick Lance to speak in or visit your church should be directed to Billie Davis at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 253 or (334) 613-2253, bdavis@alsbom.org.

For questions about Dr. Lance's Facebook and Twitter accounts or his blog site, you may contact his social media assistant, Keith Hinson, at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 289 or (334) 613-2289, khinson@alsbom.org.