I Always Pray for You with Joy
I thank my God every time I remember you. 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. Philippians 1:3-5
As Paul sat in prison in Rome writing to believers in Philippi, he must have remembered how their church started. Now they had overseers and deacons (Philippians 1:1), but then the few Jews had no synagogue. Paul and fellow missionary Silas had spoken with a group of women who had gathered to pray. One of them was a woman from Thyatira, Lydia. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message (Acts 16:11-15).
Later, Paul commanded an evil spirit to come out of a slave girl whose fortune-telling had made a great deal of money for her owners. When they saw the loss of their source of income, they incited a crowd and falsely accused Paul and Silas before the magistrates. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into jail.
Paul probably smiled as he remembered how he and Silas prayed and sang hymns even though it was midnight and their bodies ached. They’d been put in an inner cell, but the other prisoners could hear them. Suddenly a violent earthquake shook the prison, all the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. When Paul reassured the jailer that no one had escaped, the trembling man asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30)
Only a few years later, Paul prayed with joy for the flourishing church in Philippi. He prayed that their love would “abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” so they would discern what was best. He prayed they’d be pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11).
Paul kept his eyes on what God was doing and not on circumstances. His heart filled with joy as he contemplated these people who shared God’s grace and partnership in the gospel. He was confident that God had begun a good work in them and would “carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Does your joy and confidence depend on favorable circumstances or on what God is doing in and around you? Do you, like Paul, pray exuberantly for your partners in sharing the gospel?
Can you trace how the church in Philippi might have grown from Lydia and the jailer? Who was associated with Lydia (Acts 16:13-15)? What about the prisoners—what did they hear (Acts 16:27-31)? Who was associated with the jailer’s household (Acts 16:32-34)? What did each individual have to do?
What did Paul and Silas do after they spoke the word of the Lord to the jailer’s household (Acts 16:35-40)? Why do you think they returned to the jail? Why did they return to Lydia’s house?
In Paul’s prayer (Philippians1:9-11), in what specific ways did he want the Philippians’ love and discernment to grow? Can you find the Trinity in the prayer even though one member is not directly named?
Nancy J. Baker