Philippians 1:7-8 Devotional
Philippians 1:7-8. 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.
Reflection. How exactly did Paul feel about those Christians at Philippi, and why was he right to do so? Well, we need only remember the wonderful verse preceding these. Paul was confident “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). Paul’s confidence was in the sovereign and powerful God, “who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose” (2:13). Paul did not fret over the failure of his own plans, his frustrations in life, or the fiery trials he endured.
Despite the difficulties he faced, his faith was not disturbed because his contentment and confidence was not derived from his circumstances. Rather he rested in his loving heavenly Father, the God of peace through prayer (see 4:6-7, 9). Paul was right to be confident about the Christians he wrote to, because the same God that he knew and prayed to was at work in their lives, from beginning to end (1:5). Likewise, our own perseverance is not ultimately down to determination but his gracious power and work in us.
However, in 1:7 Paul gives a second reason for his confidence: he prays for them (see 1:3, 9-11). We must be careful not to think that Paul thought too highly of his prayers, putting them in ‘the name it and claim it’ category. Rather, in his prayers he knew that he was appealing to the God who began the good work and can be trusted to complete it. The important point for us here is that this knowledge did not keep Paul from praying for others. There is a foolish notion amongst some Christians that says if God is sovereign then prayer is meaningless. But for Paul it was the knowledge of God’s sovereignty that convinced him that his prayers truly mattered.
Reading these verses reveals and challenges at least two things: our low view of prayer and the self directed nature of our prayers. Firstly, we should pray with confidence, as Paul did, because of who it is we petition and plead with. God is not some mediocre deity with limited power. He is the God who gives life to those who are spiritually dead, through the gospel of his Son. He is the God who can soften hard hearts. He is the reason you or anyone you know believes the gospel. This is whom we pray to. Stop questioning whether time spent praying is worthwhile. That only brings the powerful grace of God into question. Stop thinking your efforts unaccompanied by prayer will bring about any real, lasting fruit. Stop doubting. Start praying.
Secondly, who of us can say with Paul that we have others in our hearts (1:7), or “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (1:8)? Paul’s love for others is apparent in his prayers for them. Next week we will think about the content of his prayers for others. But for now we ought to observe that he does it, passionately. We easily espouse platitudes, ‘Thinking about you,’ and ‘You’re on my heart.’ But how often are others actually in our hearts, as we confidently approach our Father on their behalf? Perhaps we are too busy praying for ourselves.