Praying with Joy
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 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. 7 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. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-8
(If you'd like to hear this entire message, simply follow THIS LINK. Otherwise, enjoy the abbreviated version below.)
Paul is effusive with joyful emotion as he opens his letter to the Philippians - you just get that feeling reading through it. When he says he prays with joy, there's no doubt about it! So what's the secret? What's going on here? Paul was in prison and had every reason to be doubtful, despondent, and down-in-the-mouth - but he wasn't. Why was he praying (and writing) with so much joy? The answers are in the text. Let's have a look at them, because Paul's reasons to be joyful in prayer are our reasons to be joyful in prayer.
Paul prays with joy because:
1. Their partnership in the Gospel. The Philippians, including Lydia and the jailer, had stuck with Paul. They were in solidarity with him even though he was in a Roman jail, and more importantly, they were holding tight to the Gospel. This fact thrilled Paul and it made him thankful and joyful. We can pray for one another with joy because we have a deep fellowship to depend upon and we are uniquely united in the Gospel.
2. God completes what he started. Paul prays with joy because he knows that God finishes what he starts. He knows, almost with excitement as you read the text, that not only did God start the work in Philippi, but he’s going to finish it in that church and in those people.
How can you not be joyful when you know that where your perseverance peters out, God’s continues (see 1 Cor 1:8)? This gives Paul and us great joy in our prayers for one another.
3. They share in God's grace. Every Christian life is a testimony. The people in the Philippians church came from different backgrounds (Lydia: successful business woman. Jailer: likely a hardened retired soldier. Paul: former persecutor of Christians) but now they were united under the grace of Jesus Christ. The same is true for us. In our Sunday morning gatherings, there are as many back stories as there are people, but we all share one amazing testimony of amazing grace. There is much joy when we realize we share in the grace of God.
4. Christ's affection fills his heart. When Paul says that he has the Philippians in his heart, and that he longs for them, he knows that this love does not originate in himself. It is love born in the very heart of the Gospel, the love Christ showed (and continues to show) when he became like one of us, lived a perfectly obedient life, faced the wrath of God for sin, and then rose again to ascend back to the Father. Paul's love for the Philippian believers overflows because Christ's love for Paul overflows. When Christ's love overwhelms us, we can pray with joy for each other.
If we are praying with joy for other believers, just what exactly should the content of our prayers be? Paul keeps no secrets. He tells the Philippians exactly what he prays for them:
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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. Philippians 1:9-11
That is a model prayer for us. It is biblical and beautiful. It is a prayer we should memorize. It is a prayer that will grow the church and make believers spiritually healthy. It is a prayer with the end in view - the day when we'll stand before God's immediate presence and he will be glorified because our lives have been fruitful and he has shown himself faithful.