3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
It is a wonderful truth to consider that believers are thinking about each other. It is a nice sentiment. However, prayer is much more than sentimental pondering. Prayer is engaging the God of the universe to intervene and interact with creation. Paul and Timothy lay before God a prayer of gratitude for the saints in Philippi. They are precious to each other. In these early verses Paul and Timothy model for us what it is to be in prayer. Take note of a few of the elements of prayer that are mentioned here. First they are offered in thanks. Second, it is offered “always” or constantly as he labors to pray for them. Third these prayers are made with joy. Finally, it is focused on the work of the Gospel.
A fervent prayer life is founded in gratitude and joy. Oh believer, learn to cultivate a spirit of gratitude in all things and you will find your prayer life thriving. Not only will it thrive, but you will more consistently see answers when you pray from a spirit of gratitude. Discipline yourself now to pray with gratitude for all things. In this way you will increase your prayer life and have greater joy in your prayers for others.
Can you thank God for all things? Be prepared as we read this book and remember that Paul is a man who thanks God for imprisonment. Pause for a moment and think about that. Paul is the type of person who is grateful for suffering and struggle. As we read together, we will begin to see some profound truths about contentment, gratitude, and prayer through the eyes of Paul and Timothy. Before you go any further in this epistle, ask God to move in your heart and teach you the secret of joy and gratitude in all things.
The Philippians have been partners in the gospel ministry for Paul and Timothy. Partnership in the gospel often translates in our modern understanding to: someone who has given money to the ministry. While financial support is important and valuable, it does not constitute a partnership. The word used for partnership is koinwnia. This word indicates a particular fellowship or kinship between the two parties involved.[i] In this case, the Philippians have not merely contributed financially, but have shared in the mission of Paul and Timothy. They have dedicated themselves to the same lifestyle as Paul and Timothy. They share this life in common with each other.
This is the kind of partnership Christians have together. We are united in purpose, vision, and master. Partnership encompasses every aspect of the relationship. As believers, we share material goods but we also share in mission, love, and allegiance. This is why Christians weep together when believers we have never met are persecuted for their faith. This is why the author of Hebrews admonishes us to “remember those in chains as though you are in chains with them, and those who are mistreated, for you are all apart of the same body.”[ii] There is no connection more precious than the connection of believers who share fellowship with Jesus Christ. Do you know Christ? Then you have this bond with fellow believers.
It is not uncommon for true believers to meet a brother or sister from another country and to weep at the sight of them. Though it seems strange to the modern western church, it is normative behavior to love other believers this way. We are slaves of one master together, and He is a good master who calls us children. We are rescued, all of us who believe, by no strength or power of our own, but because He has had mercy on us. This unites us together, whatever the circumstance. Believers love each other. Jesus says that the world will know His disciples, “by [their] love for one another.”[iii] (John 13:35) So this affection must be present in the life of a believer. Is it present in you? Trust in Christ, He will conform you to Himself and out of you will flow rivers of living water.
[i] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 445). New York: United Bible Societies.
[ii] Hebrews 13:3 – This is my own personal translation of the text.
[iii] John 13:35- this is my personal translation from the Greek text.