Biologists speak of culturing tissue cells or culturing bacteria. To culture something is to maintain it in an environment suitable for growth. In this long, single-sentence prayer (verse 9-11) Paul makes one single request: cultivate love. The length of this prayer indicates the depth and nature of love for which the apostle is praying. Paul is not praying simply that the Philippians might be more loving. He is not speaking necessarily of love for others, or on the other hand, of love to God. This is a prayer for love in the absolute sense, a comprehensive love that covers every area of life. This is a prayer for a love that is so deep and pervasive that it controls the subconscious, a love that is so vigorous that it intuitively governors every word spoken and regulates every action. This is what every local church needs because it is only in this divine culture of love that other graces grow into the visible fruits of righteousness “unto the glory and praise of God.”

Reading: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”—Philippians 1:9–11