And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 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. Phil 1:9

How shall we pray for our children and ourselves?

Paul tells the Philippian church that he is praying for them their love will increase. Sin is naturally selfish, focusing our attention on self and making us the center of our universe. The exact opposite of that is love for God and love for our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). That amount of love is not static, it can grow and abound.

But many things are wrongly called love, and so Paul prays that this love will grow in knowledge and discernment so that they can approve (or discern) what is excellent (or best).

Paul’s prayer for his children and our prayer for children is that they will grow in knowledge and discernment about what is the best choice. The very nature of children is that they do not have knowledge and discernment of the world. As toddlers they cannot discern between a hot stove and a cold stove. Maturity for a child is growing in knowledge and discernment so that they do not run into the road or put dirt in their mouth. Similarly, spiritual maturity is also growing in knowledge and discernment about how God sees the world: Where is there spiritual safety and spiritual danger?

The reason Paul prays for that discernment is so that they will choose what is excellent or best. All of us chose what we think is best at that moment. The mouse thinks the cheese is excellent until the bar falls; the fish thinks the worm is best until the hook grabs him. Paul is praying that they will choose what is really best, God’s best in the many choices we have before us each day.

The pursuit of excellence does not turn on transparent distinctions between right and wrong. It turns, rather, on delicate choices that reflect one’s entire value system, one’s entire set of priorities, one’s heart and mind. D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, p. 128

This is what we want for our children: a heart that loves God and others, filled with knowledge and discernment, so that they are making God-glorifying, good choices. Paul wants and we want their lives full of the fruits of righteousness.

Bottom line – As parents, we can often focus on behavior. Paul focuses on abounding love for God and man, knowledgeable and discerning love that makes good choices. Why? So that they can live a happy life? No, so that they can be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.