This opening prayer is one that I want to pray when the the pressure is off and there are many good things to choose from -- "that I may approve what is excellent." But this is a prayer for a church in the midst of poverty and suffering. They needed increased love, insight, understanding in all circumstances. I want this whole prayer to be prayed for me, especially the end; I so long to not be barren or unfruitful.
The suffering of Paul has distilled life to its essential ingredients, "for me to live is Christ." He needs nothing else, desires nothing else. This is the one essential aspect of life.
It was given to you not only to believe, but to suffer. Faith is a gift. So is suffering. It is controversial enough to say God bestows faith, but that God grants suffering is even harder to swallow. There is such hope there, though.