READ Philippians 1:3-11 — I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 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. 7 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. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The apostle Paul remembered other believers and the manner in which he did so was prayer. That is, he did not merely remember them in the sense that their names or faces instantly flashed across his mind, but when he remembered them his heart was stirred with joy, which led him to pray for them. This was a remembrance that lingered before the throne of God on their behalf.
This is evident not only here, in this brief thank you note, but also in letters he wrote to other churches and individuals. What is also evident is the priority of Paul’s prayer life, which was the care of their souls. Pay attention to what the testimony of Paul’s prayer life reveals about his abundant thankfulness for others as well as his concern for their spiritual growth toward maturity in Christ.
- To the true believers in Rome…
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:9-12).
- To his brothers and sisters in Corinth…
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:4-9).
- To the Ephesian believers…
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you… (Ephesians 1:16-18).
- To Christians in the city of Colossae…
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Colossians 1:9-11).
- To followers of Christ in Thessalonica…
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
- To Philemon, his friend and brother in Christ…
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ (Philemon 5).
Did you notice the content of Paul’s prayers? Do you see the emphasis he placed on the issues of the heart? Their faith? Their love? Their fruitfulness? This is not to say he did not care about their physical problems and concerns; he did (See, for example 2:27).
However, the biblical pattern of Paul’s prayers demonstrates his deepest concerns, what he considered of greatest importance. He knew that physical healing is of little value if the heart remains sick. Therefore, he pleaded with God to grant other believers the virtues that put Christ on display; virtues like hope, joy, wisdom, discernment, maturing in love and growth in grace.
How about you? What does your prayer life look like? Is your prayer list dominated by diseases and financial needs? Or are you bringing fellow Christians to the Lord in prayer that they may grow in Christlikeness? Are you pleading with God to draw your unsaved friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers to him in salvation? Are you asking the Lord to grant others the gifts of repentance and faith?
Father, adjust my priorities. Cause my heart’s eye to look to what is eternally significant. Even as I love others by praying for their physical and material needs, remind me to pray first and foremost for your work in their hearts as they grow in their walk of faith.