You’re making your way through the church lobby after a Sunday worship service when you see someone you know coming though the crowd in your direction. After you greet one another, your friend says, “I was hoping I’d catch you. I have a prayer request I want to share with you.”
What’s your reaction in that moment?
“Alright! It’s an opportunity to lift up someone’s need in prayer! This so totally ROCKS!”
“My prayer list is already too long… Let’s see if this request is important enough to make the cut.”
“I really care about this person, but I’m so busy right now. I really wish they’d have asked somebody else.”
Or if you’re like me…
“I hope I remember this later!”
If we were to follow the example of the Apostle Paul, our reaction would be closest to the first of these, as silly as it may sound. Paul found great joy in praying for others, asking God to intervene in their lives in order to accomplish His purposes. Take a look at Philippians 1:4-8.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Paul was a prisoner, and yet his affection for his brothers and sisters living in Philippi was so great that it brought him joy to pray for them. This joy certainly didn’t come from his circumstances. So from where did it come?
1. Joy in their shared history – Paul had been through hard things with these people. In Acts 16, we read about how Paul and Silas were jailed in Philippi. As the two missionaries were being run out of town by the magistrates, they visited the fledgling house church there one last time. That church was the one Paul later wrote these words to, once again jailed for the sake of the gospel. Paul honored their history together by praying for them with joy.
2. Joy in their shared standing in Christ – Paul recognized that these people he was praying for weren’t just any people. They belonged to the household of God, beloved children of the Almighty, co-heirs with Jesus Christ! He knew that God was at work in their lives, and that God would carry that work to completion. He knew they shared in God’s grace – with him. They were beloved just as he was beloved. What a joy it is to know that others experience the love of God just as I do! What a bond we share!
3. Joy in God’s love for them – Paul longed for these people “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” He was able to see them from God’s point of view. Shouldn’t we, as God’s people, care about the things God cares about? God takes joy in answering the prayers of His people. Should we not also take joy in lifting their prayer needs to God?
And so, I am convicted. I want to be more like Paul in this, finding joy in lifting the needs of my brothers and sisters to our Father. I want to pray as Paul prayed, that their love would abound more and more, that they would have knowledge and discernment, and that they would remain pure and blameless until the day of Christ (Phil. 1:9-11).
Speaking of which, do you ever notice that when Paul prays for people, he never prays that they would find relief from their bunions, find a new job, or get along better with their sister? He always prays for things like “abounding love,” “depth of insight,” and “the fruit of righteousness.” I wonder if we prayed these things for one another how it might change our level of excitement about praying for others. I wonder how it might change our lives…
But that’s another post for another time. For now, let us pray for one another with all joy!
Now, remind me again what you wanted prayer for...