Summary: This message examines Paul's prayer for the Philippians in 1:3-11 identifying major elements in the prayer that we can emulate. Paul prays with (1) thanksgiving (2) confidence (3) passion and (4) purpose.
We have begun a study of Philippians. Last week we dealt with the history of this church as recorded in Acts 16. God has sovereignly chosen to give us a lot of information about the founding of the church at Philippi. All of that is helpful in our interpretation of this letter. In that message we expounded the first two verses in the epistle.
Today we will deal with verses 3-11. Follow with me as we read Phil. 1:1-11 from the New International Version.
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”i
In the Greek verses 3-8 are one long sentence.ii The kai (and) at the beginning of verse 9 connects the rest of the passage with that sentence. So, we know that everything here is closely connected. However, for study purposes we will examine this prayer in four sections:
I. Thanksgiving is prominent in vs 3-5.
II. Confidence is prominent in verse 6.
III. Paul’s Passion is addressed in vs 7-8.
IV. Paul’s Purpose is evident in vs 9-11. There Paul makes very specific requests in behalf of the believers in Philippi.
I. Paul Prays with THANKSGIVING (vs 3-5).
”I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”
He not only models the importance of thanksgiving in this passage, but in 4:6 he specifically tells Christians to mix their requests with thanksgiving. Prayer can become very heavy if we don’t do that. We are to make our requests known to God—not because God needs the information, but when the prayer is answered we can look back, remember asking, and know it is not just a coincidence. It is a result of God’s goodness and intervention. It becomes another reason for giving thanks. “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord” (Ps 92:1, NKJV).
Thanksgiving helps us keep the right perspective. Thanksgiving builds our faith, so that we pray effectively. Throughout Scripture, especially in the Psalms, we are told to give thanks to the Lord. And in 4:6 Paul gives this directive: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” The antidote to worry and anxiety is taking the matter to the Lord in prayer, “with thanksgiving.” This is one of the many secrets to joyful living embedded in this letter.
Notice in 1:4 Paul says his prayer for these people is “with joy.” He knows they have some problems. He is concerned about those issues. But he does not allow that to rob him of his joy. We’ll see some of the reason for that in verse 6. Paul sees the good in these people. He sees their ultimate destiny. He sees what they are becoming in Christ. He is aware of their weakness, but he does not allow those to define them. Instead it stirs him to pray in their behalf. This is the right attitude of heart when we are interceding for others. Paul writes in verse 7, “just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart.” Paul has no condemnation in his heart for these people. His heart is filled with love for them, and he is praying for their highest good.
The way we think about people affects our prayers for them. Paul is modeling the right way to think about those we’re praying for. We are not called to curse, but to bless. We are not commissioned to call down fire on those who oppose us, but to pray for their salvation. Jesus instructed us on this when James and John wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans. His response to that is recorded in Luke 9:55-56: “But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them” (NKJV).iii