Philippians 1: 3-11
One theme that becomes apparent when we read the book of Philippians all the way through in one sitting is prayer. This theme is one we focus on when we talk about missions and the work of Gospel proclamation. Tonight, we are going to pray for the persecuted church. In Philippians we notice some subtle references to this. In verse 28, Paul encourages the believers - “and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.” Paul knows the situation they are in, he thinks about them, he gives thanks for them and he prays for them. The relationships God has given us, the brothers and sisters in Christ we know, can fuel our prayers. We can give thanks for their perseverance in Christ. In verse 9, Paul prays for their growth in sanctification – “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” We see that this theme continues throughout the book.
In verse 19, as Paul reflects on their trials and how good God has been to them, he mentions their prayers. “For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” Paul himself is under persecution and imprisoned. He knows he needs more than just the Holy Spirit. He tells them he depends on their prayers. Paul is not assuming he will be set free, but regardless of the outcome – life or death, he needs their prayers to be fruitful in his circumstance.
When we jump to Philippians 4: 6 & 7 and look at it in this context, Paul encourages them – “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” These saints weren’t just dealing with every day anxieties over work and church and school, but also worries over persecution. Paul opened with the theme of prayer and thanksgiving and he has come back to this. He showed them his own example and then encourages them to go to God with all their heart issues and desires. We see Paul entwining prayer with all his concerns in life. Prayer is a necessary thread in the fabric of the believer’s life.