Paul Praising and Praying
Read – Philippians 1:3-11
Key Verse – I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy… (Philippians 1:3-4 NKJV).
Key Thought – We experience joy in Christ when we praise Him and when we pray.
Joy. Philippians is about joy… our joy in Christ. We learned in our introductory study that joy is a key word… THE key word for the letter. As mentioned earlier, the most prominent theme of this letter is joy, with some variation on the word appearing 15 times or so in the letter.
Already here in chapter 1 we come upon that topic. The first occurrence of the word “joy” is found here in verse 4, where Paul describes it as a result of his praising God for the Philippians, and praying to God for them.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy… (Philippians 1:3-4 NKJV).
So right off the bat we find a principle – we experience joy in Christ when we praise Him and when we pray.
Now, Paul’s prayer is an example of how we ought to pray, and it is also a bit of a rebuke concerning the way many of us DO pray. We usually pray for the physical concerns in our lives – health, wealth, relationships, pain, troubles. Sometimes that’s actually ALL we pray for. We’re a bit like Bob in that ridiculous comedy “What About Bob?” – “Give me, give me, give me, I need, I need, I need.”
During our Wednesday evening prayer meetings… which BTW I encourage you to attend, and guarantee you will be blessed if you do. A couple weeks ago I came to prayer meeting in a real funk, truly wishing I could be anywhere but there. Brother Dan Bauer shared from the Word that evening, and God used it wonderfully in me. And then the prayer time began and by the time it was over I was on shouting ground! I need prayer meeting. And so do you. But I digress…. During those times where we are hearing requests for prayer, the spiritual requests are sometimes few and far between. I’ve even tried to force the issue, tossing a rule out before hearing requests and saying that we will accept no requests about physical health. Crickets. For some reason many struggle to pray for spiritual things… only ever asking for physical needs to be met.
Unlike most of us, though, Paul prayed FIRST for spiritual things, which he knew were more important. He sometimes prayed for physical needs, too (for this thing I asked the Lord three times), but these were always secondary to the spiritual in his mind.
So let’s look at Paul praising God, and also at Paul praying to God. Let’s look at how Paul found joy in these things.
I thank God for you. (vs. 3)
All our prayers ought to include thanksgiving.
When we get to chapter 4 we’ll find Paul exhorting these Philippians to Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6 NKJV).
Paul started with thanksgiving… specifically thanking God for his Christian brothers and sisters in Philippi.
It had been 10 years since Paul had seen them, and yet he was still thanking God for these believers. \Now that’s interesting. So many times I get discouraged because I don’t see God doing things now, when if I were to look back at what God did over the last 10 years I’d be leaping around for joy. Interestingly, we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary as Friendship Bible Church this month. If you want some joy, spend a few minutes replaying the last 10 years in your mind and praising God for it. Maybe this was one of the keys to Paul‘s continuous joy – he was constantly replaying in his mind what God had done, whether recently or in the past.
Thanksgiving is a sign of maturity in our prayer lives, you know. Children ask constantly for things, and only as they grow older do they start truly feeling thankful. One of my favorite songs is “The Cat’s In The Cradle” by Sandy and Harry F. Chapin. The teenage son’s words are classic, when his dad wants to spend a little time with him. “What I’d really like Dad is to borrow the car keys. See you later, can I have them please?” How many of us realize, only later in life, only after we’ve matured a bit, just how thankful we are for things… and for the people God has brought into our lives?
Do you thank God for the believers He has placed in your life? Do you pull up our wonderful church directory and just scan the faces that make up this church, and thank God for each of them? Do you spend time turning those names and faces over in your mind and thanking God for all they’ve meant to you and been for you over the past 10 years?
And it’s not just this church… this past week at the funeral for Jaime Whitely, it was like a reunion. Names and faces I hadn’t seen in decades walked up to me with a smile. So many friends and brothers and sisters to thank God for!
Paul said that every time he prayed for them, every time he praised God for them, it brought him joy (vs. 4).
I’m thankful for your partnership in the gospel. (vs. 5)
The word is “fellowship” in our NKJV and KJV Bibles, but other translations (ESV, NIV, NLT, CSB) translate it as “partnership”. Either word is an accurate translation of the Greek word KOINONIA, which means “a sharing in, a fellowship in, a partnership in”. But in our world, “fellowship” has come to mean something a little bit more watered down. We have “Campfire Fellowships” which are times of food and sitting around yakking… times of grilling burgers… of playing games… fishing… just hanging out together. All that is good and wonderful, but the word here means more than that.
It means sharing… it means partnership in… something common to each. Paul was thankful for their partnering with him in the gospel… from the first day until now.
The Philippian Christians shared in Paul’s ministry… they partnered with him. They supported him materially and financially and emotionally, when few others did. cf. (4:15-16) They sent Epaphroditus to minister to Paul in prison. Epaphroditus carried their most recent financial gift to him there. Paul called him, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need (Philippians 2:25 NKJV).
In every way one might think of, this church had stood with Paul, not just in word and prayer, but in deed and action. They gave, they stayed in touch with him, and when they could they actually went to labor alongside him.
Recently, I think I’ve felt a bit of what Paul felt. Vacation Bible School has come and gone. This place was a beehive of activity for the week leading up to it, the week of the event, and then the week afterwards. I tell you, it is impossible to watch people come into this place day after day to set up their rooms, to prepare sets and materials, to labor toward the goal of reaching children for Christ, without being thankful. They are working together… partnering together… in the gospel.
Today we kick off our annual Operation Christmas Child effort. This is a huge effort with a simple and common goal – getting the gospel to children… everywhere. It is not about Christmas… it is about the gospel. It is not about physical boxes of toys… it is about the souls of men, women, boys and girls – whole families. I think back on last year’s efforts and cannot help but rejoice – so many working so hard for a common goal…. partnering together… in the gospel. And over 1000 boxes went out into the world filled with gospel hope.
I’m thankful for what God is doing in you. (vs. 6)
Now this verse is one of the most important verses in the New Testament. You ought to have that verse underlined in your Bible. If you don’t, I encourage you to do so now, for this is one of the best verses in the Bible describing our eternal security in Christ… the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints… the truth that once you are saved you are forever saved and can never be lost. It is a glorious, towering, wonderful, encouraging verse.
Let’s read it together again.
God started the work in you. Our salvation is not in any way our own doing, but rather entirely a work of our wonderful God and Savior.
Jesus paid it ALL.
> ALL to Him I owe.
> Sin had left a crimson stain.
> He washed it white as snow.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV).
He started it, and, Paul wrote, He will FINISH it. He will COMPLETE it. God will keep working in you right up until the day of the rapture – the day of Jesus Christ.
This same truth… the perseverance of the saints… that once you are saved you can and will never be lost… is seen throughout the Bible:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand (John 10:27-28 NKJV).
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NKJV).
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24 NKJV).
Just like the psalmist, who sang, The LORD will perfect that which concerns me (Psalm 138:8 NKJV), Paul was CONFIDENT of this truth, and thankful for it.
In his letter to the Corinthians, he would put it like this, We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– … knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 14 NKJV).
“I’m thankful for what God is doing in you… that He started it… that He will complete it… that He will keep working in you right up until the day Jesus comes to get you.”
Paul was thankful… every time he thought about these brothers and sisters. He was thankful for their partnership with him down through the years, and right up to the time he put pen to paper. And he was thankful for the amazing work of grace that God had done in saving them, and was doing in completing them, and would do until Jesus comes again.
I pray for you, he said in vss. 3-4, and here he tells them what he prays for them – more love, more knowledge, more discernment, more fruitfulness.
More love. (vs. 9)
… that your love may abound.
Let there be LOTS OF IT! May there be more and more of it! May there never be an end ot it.
Oh brothers… sisters… we are never done loving God and one another. There is no stopping point. We’ve never loved enough… whether we’re talking about loving God or loving each other. Either way, the more and more in verse 9 ought to be underlined in our Bibles and burned into our minds and hearts.
“I pray that you would love more and more… love God more… ” Paul prayed.
Fernando Ortega recently popularized the old hymn:
More love to Thee, oh Christ, more love to Thee!
> Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
> This is my earnest plea
> More love, oh Christ, to Thee
> More love to Thee, more love to Thee!
“I pray that you would love each other more…” Paul prayed. It was the same prayer he prayed for the Thessalonians:
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NKJV). But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 NKJV)
More and more love. God never stops loving us. He loved and loves us with aneverlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
Let us love Him, more and more, no matter what He might allow into our lives to test and try us, let us love Him… more and more.
And let us love each other, more and more. We might disappoint one another… hurt one another… discourage one another… but still, may we love more and more until Jesus comes.
Paul always exhorted his readers to grow in their knowledge of the things of God. Peter did he same in his letter, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen (2 Peter 3:18 NKJV).
This is why you need to read your Bibles, Christians. Not just on Sunday morning, when you dust it off to bring it here… not just once in a while… not just when you’re preparing a Sunday School lesson, teachers. Every day. Read it systematically. Read it continuously. Read it like it is a love letter to you from your Savior (which it is). Read it like it is the source of everything God wants you to know (which it is). Read it like it is your roadmap for every journey… your guidebook for every task… your instruction manual for life (as I heard Sandy describe it this past week).
We cannot rightly love God and others without knowledge. We need to know God’s word.
More love. More knowledge…
By discernment, Paul meant spiritual perceptiveness: spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, spiritual feeling, spiritual taste.
How in the world are you supposed to know what is true in this world that is filled with thousands of voices all claiming to be true? How are you to determine right from wrong, wise from foolish, good from evil, excellent from mediocre?
So many voices crying out for a hearing! And so Paul prays for them to have spiritual discernment… spiritual insight. He prayed for it and we ought to pray for it, too.
Solomon prayed for it. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? (1 Kings 3:9 NKJV)
It is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)
It becomes more and more apparent as we grow in our faith. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14 NKJV)
And it increases when our knowledge increases. Note the order in Paul’s prayer – knowledge, then discernment. The more you read your Bible… the more you internalize what is therein… the more your discernment will grow.
Paul prayed that their love would increase, and their knowledge would increase, and their discernment would increase SO THAT they would be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ (vs. 10). Our KJV / NKJV Bibles don’t include the “so”, but other translations do. Paul’s prayer for increased love, knowledge and discernment was SO THAT they would be able to distinguish the excellent from the not excellent… SO THAT they would live sincere and holy lives before God.
… so that you may be sincere – have a right relationship… non-hypocritical relationship… with God.
… so that you may be without offense – have a right relationship… helpful rather than harmful relationship… with others.
Paul’s desire for the Philippians was what we all ought to desire for ourselves – to be morally pure before God and to live in such a way to never cause others to stumble.
More love… more knowledge… more discernment…
He prayed for their fruitfulness.
He prayed that the fruit of righteousness would be seen in them. He may have been thinking of the internal fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23.
Perhaps more likely, he was thinking of and praying that their lives would be marked by the external fruits of good works… acts of kindness… that would bring glory and praise to God.
More love… more knowledge… more discernment… more fruit.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy… (Philippians 1:3-4 NKJV).
Paul praised and Paul prayed. And he got joy out of doing so.
He praised God for his brothers and sisters in Christ… for their partnership with him in the gospel… for what God had done and was doing and would do in their lives.
He prayed for their love and knowledge and discernment to abound… grow… increase more and more, so that they would live right before God, and live right before others.
As I pondered these things this week, it dawned on me that the times in my life when I’ve had the least amount of joy, have been the times when I most neglected these things.
… when I neglected to be thankful for those God has brought into my life… when I’ve only thought on their weaknesses rather than their partnership… when I’ve allowed Satan to blind me to the blessings of others in my life… when I’ve focused on their failings rather than their fellowship. These attitudes are joyless.
… when I have allowed my vision to become short… when I’ve been so overwhelmed by the troubles of life in the here and now, that I’ve forgotten what God started in me when He saved me, and that He will continue it until He calls me home… when I get all thumbsucky with the temporal, and let the devil pull my eyes away from the eternal. That’s a joyless way to think.
… when I have neglected the Word, not doing my part to increase in knowledge and discernment. There is no joy in such neglect.
What about you? How’s your joy?
If it’s not where it ought to be, then do as Paul did. Get on your knees before God and praise Him… for brothers… for sisters… for partners. And pray for them… for more love for them… for more knowledge and discernment for them. Of course, you ought to pray the same things for yourself, too, but if you’re following Paul’s example, you’ll pray for them.
I’m willing to bet that as you spend some time praising and praying, you’ll find joy.