Prayer is a peculiar thing. We know we should pray. We recognize that God hears our prayers. We understand that God answers our prayers. Yet, still we do not pray as we should. Why?
Bad experience with prayer might be one answer. We ask God for something, God answers but not as we wanted, so we conclude prayer does not work.
When you want to know how to do something right, you go to an expert. Paul was an expert at prayer. Perhaps at some time he had done as the other disciples and asked Jesus to “teach him to pray.” Paul prayed earnestly, unceasingly, and most importantly, according to God’s will.
Paul’s prayer at the beginning of Philippians gives us an example of how we should pray. As Paul writes, he is in prison, not for any crime, but simply for proclaiming Christ, yet his prayer and the whole letter are filled with joy and a positive attitude.
Despite the fact that he has received some disturbing news about the church at Philippi, he will not be swayed from being thankful for the joy they have brought to him. Paul does not want them focusing on problems but rather to look at the success they share in Christ. Once he has them focusing on their success in Christ, he can point them forward to real knowledge and understanding. He can put them back on the track of spreading the gospel.
Paul sets out to accomplish all of this through prayer.
Be Thankful for God’s Blessings
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace (Philippians 1:3-7).
It is so easy to complain. For some people, complaining is a way of life that defines who they are instead of the mood they happen to be in now. Although there may be much to complain about, tell God why you are thankful. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Paul told the Philippians that we have much more to be thankful for than we do to complain about. We have the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ (vs. 5). We have the confidence of our salvation (vs. 6). We have the grace of God (vs. 7).
Pray for Love to Abound
“For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:8,9).
Even when we have a hard time determining what God’s will is for a certain situation, we know God always wills that Christians love each other abundantly. “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11).
In Philippi, two Christian women, Euodia and Syntyche, were having problems; Paul did not take sides or try to “resolve” the problem with his own answer. Paul’s answer was to rely upon one of God’s “classic” mediation techniques, pray for love to abound! Paul’s prayer was that as these women remembered their Christian love for one another, bitterness and strife would be replaced with knowledge and understanding (vs. 9).
Pray that You Remain Pure and Blameless
“That you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:10,11).
Even though he wrote from a prison cell, Paul knew he had done no wrong. Our goal in life should be to live holy and pure lives before God and man. Believers are to stay uncontaminated by the world. As Paul prayed, Christians are to be “without offense till the day of Christ.” “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Prayer is the answer no matter what the question.