Although Paul was a prisoner of Rome, he preferred to describe himself as a “bond-servant of Jesus Christ,” for it was for His sake that he was imprisoned. He wrote to “all the saints” (v 1), prayed for “all” (v 4), and longed after them “all” (v 8), “without preferring one before another” (1Tim 5:21), emphasizing the need for Christian unity (1:27; 2:2; 4:2).
When was the last time we prayed for all the believers in the local assembly?
All believers are saints (holy ones), and thus positionally set apart for God, with the responsibility of living in the good of this practically. All true sanctification is brought about through association with Christ Jesus (v 1). The believers, who constituted the assembly at Philippi, were at Philippi, and therefore lived in the locality, just as every believer should be willing to gather with like-minded Christians near their place of residence. Bishops are overseers or elders, and deacons simply servants. There is a plurality of each. One man does not have overall say. The local church is neither a dictatorship nor a democracy, but the balanced approach of a number of spiritually mature men with genuine concern for God’s people leading the flock (1Pet 5:1-4). Strict criteria have been set for those who may qualify for such positions of service in the local church (1Tim 3; Tit 1). Grace is undeserved favor, and it is by this we were not only saved but also continue to be preserved daily. Even though men are continually striving for peace, it ever evades them, for true peace, which is the portion of the Christian, can only be found in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do you pray?
Just as one of Christ’s disciples “said unto Him, Lord teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1), we all still have much to learn in the art of prayer. One way of learning is through studying the prayers of godly men and women in the Scriptures. Despite hardship, and an uncertain future, Paul prayed thankfully. It is important in our prayer life to express thankfulness to God. The prayers of the Apostle were marked by consistency: he always remembered them before the throne of grace. The phrase “in every prayer of mine” suggests solitary prayer, for although it is vital to pray with others (Acts 2:42), how can we survive without spending time alone with God (Matt 6:6)? The Lord Jesus Christ “departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mk 1:35), providing a further example of individual prayer. As Paul prayed “for you all” (v 4), there was liberality in his prayers, generously excluding none of the saints. Let us also be determined to care and pray for each member of the local church without exception. In “making request,” rather than demands, Paul prayed with humility, showing true reverence for God and dependence upon Him. Finally, he prayed “with joy,” for prayer should be a pleasure rather than a chore to be carried out grudgingly.
Why do you pray?
Paul’s concern for the believers at Philippi led him to prayer. He prayed with such joy and thankfulness to God for them because of their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,” the first day having been described in Acts 16. Their generosity in supporting Paul financially surpassed that of all other churches, and even now the fact that Paul was imprisoned hundreds of miles away did not deter them from sending another gift by Epaphroditus (4:18). One service that an assembly can engage in is giving help to missionaries. The results of such support will be the following: firstly, joy for the missionary; secondly, the support of their prayers to God for us; thirdly, their confidence in the reality of our profession and final perfection; fourthly, a longing in their hearts toward us.
For what do you pray?
Above all else, he wished them to abound and be filled, so becoming spiritually enriched. He prayed for their love to “abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” because Christian love can never be divorced from intelligence. Our love for Christ should grow as our knowledge of Him increases by studying God’s Word, and our love for fellow believers should also develop as our knowledge of what we are by grace increases. Spiritual discernment should also characterize our love, as we continually feed upon the Word (Heb 5:13, 14). Secondly, he prayed that they might “approve things that are excellent,” again emphasizing the need for Christians to examine everything in order to determine what will be most profitable to the spiritual life. Thirdly, Paul wished the Philippians to be “sincere (eilikrineis, used to describe ‘unmixed substances’) and without offence till the day of Christ” (v 10). Living such a life of purity, which “becometh the gospel of Christ” (v 27), should prevent offense to any. This was to characterize them till the day of Christ, which embraces the rapture (vv 6, 10; 1 Cor 5:5) and the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 1:8; 2 Cor 1:14; Phil 2:16), with emphasis being on reward for the church. Finally, he desired them to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” The only means of being spiritually fruitful is mutual indwelling with Christ (John15:5). Such a life inevitably glorifies the Father (John15:8), and so, although Paul wished for the believers to be enriched, it was ultimately with God’s glory in view.
How does your prayer life measure up?