From: Bob Williams
This commentary continues the “Following Paul in Prayer” series and addresses the logical question of what Paul prayed about using Philippians as our guide. Like Paul, the Philippians were undergoing severe persecution and suffering. If he prayed the way most Christians pray today, Paul would have prayed for his and the Philippians’s material prosperity and physical well-being. He would have wondered why God was doing this to them. But he doesn’t do any of these things. Following Paul’s prayers in Philippians we see what Paul actually prays about and asks for.
First, Paul reminds his readers where they are in the plan and purpose of God in Phil. 1:1-2, “Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Believers must appreciate where they fit into God’s purpose. Today they belong to the distinct “mystery program” being accomplished through Paul’s apostleship through which we find that God is offering grace and peace to His enemies rather than wrath and judgment.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,” (Phil. 1:3-4). Even though Paul and the Philippians were experiencing intensive physical and material suffering, his prayers never sank into ingratitude, disappointment or despair but always rose up into thankfulness, peace and joy because of the super-abounding spiritual riches they have in Christ. Riches no one could take away. See Romans 8:31-39.
Even though Paul was being held in a jail cell, arms chained, legs shackled, suffering many physical, emotional and mental strains, his joy kept on growing. Other passages describe the physical abuse he endured. Yet through it all Paul gloried in his weaknesses, because in his weaknesses God displayed His power, (2 Cor. 11:23-33). Rejoicing is not the result of believers being delivered from adversity; it is the result of being delivered through adversity. When Paul was weak in himself, then he was strong in the Lord.
Of all the things Paul could have talked to God about regarding the Philippians, the most important was their “fellowship in the gospel,” Paul’s distinct gospel: “For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ ... in the defense and confirmation of the gospel [Paul’s gospel], ye all are partakers of my grace,” (Phil. 1:5-7). The only way to walk in a way that pleases God today and that leads to a thankful and joyful prayer life comes through a walk that participates in the fellowship of the mystery with its gospel of grace, Paul’s gospel. In doing this, believers join God in His work for today, strengthened by the knowledge that the trials we face are not reasons to question God or ourselves. They are the very reasons God has left believers here. Believers are to be extenders of His Grace and Peace to a lost and sin-cursed world, suffering under adverse conditions. Understanding this is the only basis for joyful prayer in thankfulness. Take the time to study Paul’s prayers for yourself to gain a fuller understanding of what Paul prayed about. The final installment in this series will briefly cover what Paul prayed for.