In the opening of his letter to the Philippians (Phil. 1:3-11), Paul demonstrates just how much he actually cares for those he is writing to. He says, “I have you in my heart”. This is not just a throwaway statement: these disciples filled his daily thoughts and his affections.
Putting Others First in Prayer
[Paul] was expecting to see fruit from those in the church…This was not so that he could take credit for his prayers being effective, but rather so that God would be praised and glorified.
He states that he always prays for them and does so with joy (Phil. 1:4). There is a challenge in his example for us. We get many requests for prayer through prayer emails and social media. Some we will respond to, while others we perhaps aren’t able to. Do we include those needing our prayers every time we pray and do we do so with the fervour and care that Paul demonstrates here? Do they fill our daily thoughts, or are they forgotten after just a short time?
Paul’s time in Philippi had resulted in his imprisonment and he could be forgiven for wanting to put his experience there out of his mind, forgetting that place and its people. However, he sets aside any thought of himself and remembers the Philippians with joy as he prays. Prayer gives us this opportunity to bring to God others besides ourselves who are in need.
Praying to Encourage
Paul demonstrates just how much he actually cares for those he is writing to. He says, “I have you in my heart”. This is not just a throwaway statement: these disciples filled his daily thoughts and his affections.
Paul had got to know the people he was writing to; he had served with them in the gospel. He saw in them how God had started to work in them and was full of confidence that the Lord would complete this work. He also saw the need for them to grow in love and knowledge and, by sharing his burden for them, he reminded them of their need in this regard (Phil. 1:6).
I wonder how those in the Church of God in Philippi felt when they heard the content of this letter, finding out that Paul was praying for them in this way every day. How are we affected when someone tells us that they are praying for us? Are we moved by the thought that someone, perhaps each day, is interceding for us before the Lord? Paul seems to be showing that there is benefit in telling those for whom we are praying of our prayer burden for them.
Praying for Discernment
Paul also prays that the Philippians may be able to discern and have a depth of insight. Discernment is the ability to see what is right or ‘what is best’ as Paul puts it here in this passage. He was praying that the Philippians would be able to determine what ‘the truth’ was and as Jude puts it, “to contend earnestly for it” (Jude 3). Paul expressed similar concerns for the Ephesians when he wrote to them (Eph 4:14) about being ‘blown here and there by every wind of teaching’.
Praying with Expectation
Paul was expecting to see evidence that his prayers had been answered and his letter understood. He was expecting to see fruit from those in the church (Phil. 1:10); as they grew in love, knowledge and discernment, he anticipated an outworking. This was not so that he could take credit for his prayers being effective, but rather so that God would be praised and glorified (Phil. 1:11).
In short, Paul’s example here tells us to really care about those we pray for, to be clear what we are praying for, to tell our fellow Christians when we are praying for them and to pray with confidence that the Lord will answer our prayers to his praise and glory.
Chris Sutton, The Church of God in Wigan
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