I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 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. (Philippians 1:3-11)
Summary—As he wrote this letter, Paul sat in a prison cell, awaiting his fate from the Roman emperor. This tyrant would either show Paul mercy and free him, or he would convict him of treason against Rome and have him killed. From this cell, we get today’s text. Paul, in this section, thanks God with a heart filled to the brim with joy for his Philippian brothers and sisters in Christ. Here we get a great example from the apostle on how to pray in any situation.
Insight—What would you do if you were locked away in a smelly prison with no hope of escape and little hope of freedom? Would you fall on your knees and ask God for help? Would you cry out to Him for rescue? That’s not what Paul did. He didn’t care what the emperor was going to do with him. Rather, he cared what the King of Glory had already done for him and how God was building up the believers in Philippi more and more in faith. Paul’s prayer teaches us that we are to come to God with more than urgent calls for help with our immediate needs. Notice two reasons why Paul prayed like he did. For one thing, he understood that his calling was more important than his circumstance. Paul was called to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the gentiles. The Philippian church was his first stop on his missionary journey to Europe. As they prayed for Paul, as they gave what they could to keep his ministry going, Paul could thank God with joy for their participation in this mission. He knew that no prison cell could stop what God was doing in his church. When you pray, do you look to your own struggles first, or do you see how God is using your church to extend his kingdom to the nations?
There is a another reason why Paul prayed like this. He trusted God to come through on His promises. God started a good work in the Philippian Church and He will complete it to the end. Jesus Christ is working a good work in you and is making you more and more like himself. He promises you that he will finish what he started. This is our hope in the advent season. He promises that he will come back a second time to get us and finish what he started. Let your prayer life reflect this hope. Pray in all things with thanksgiving and joy.
Child Catechism—Q: How did Paul teach us to pray? A: With thanksgiving and joy.
Discussion—What situation do you think would be too horrible that would cause you to pray without thanksgiving and joy?
Prayer— Father in heaven, teach us how to pray with glad hearts and thankful minds. Let us see more clearly how you are extending your kingdom and give us willing hearts to rejoice at all times. We rejoice in your Goodness. We rejoice in your faithfulness. We ask all these things in the name of your glorious son, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Contributed by Mike Fenimore