Read and pray through Philippians, chapter 1, specifically, Philippians 1:3 – 11.
Reflection | Paul is under house arrest in Rome. Much like we are now, he is sheltered in place and limited in his movements. And yet, as Paul declares in the opening of this letter, he knows that he is not alone: “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
From the opening verses mentioning all the saints in Philippi to the midpoint of this letter, referencing the messenger Epaphroditus, to the end of his correspondence which lists a whole host of other brothers and sisters, Paul focuses not on his feelings of isolation but rather gratefully acknowledges his abiding connection to a wider community. Paul’s gratitude does not negate his longing to be with those he loves (v. 8). And yet without the benefit of a cellphone or social media, Paul holds this sense of solidarity with others in his heart (v. 7).
This togetherness that transcends their social distance that Paul invokes is a bond borne of their common unity, their shared confidence in Christ (v. 5-7). It is worth noting what enables Paul to experience this sense of connection with others in the faith is through the practice of prayer. Remembrance of those from whom Paul is geographically apart, leads Paul to reach out to God (v. 3). Had Paul not gone to the Lord in prayer, it is likely his longing for others would have resulted in more of a sense of their absence and of loss rather than a deeper perception of shared intimacy with them and the gratitude that follows.
Paul doesn’t shy away from facing the reality of his situation. When he talks about being in chains, and it’s almost certain that he was actually chained to a Roman soldier as he wrote this letter, Paul was waiting for a verdict as to his guilt or innocence. As he will share later on in this letter, Paul did not know whether he would live or die because of his faith in Christ.
And yet gratitude elicited by prayerful remembrance moves Paul from bemoaning his present circumstances to interceding on behalf of those with whom he is in relationship. Rather than focusing on himself, asking for prayer support, Paul prays for the community at Philippi. Specifically, he seeks for the Holy Spirit to cause the love among and between the Philippians to grow out of their increased perception of the goodness of Christ and for such love – the love of Jesus in their midst, to bear much fruit (v. 9-10).
The longer we remain sheltered in place, the harder it is to be away from those we love. It will become tempting to distract ourselves with other things rather than to remember the people we cannot be with in person. Or like Paul, we can choose to remember them out of a disposition of prayer. As we bring our longing for others before the Lord, God will enable us not only to perceive our unbroken connection with each other but also to draw closer through the Holy Spirit. Instead of becoming lost in our grief, prayer will lead us to a posture of gratitude. And this Spirit-inspired gratitude will empower us beyond struggling with our own sense of loss to boldly advocate for each other – that “he who began a good work in us to carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Consider and Discuss | Do you view your prayer life as a private matter? How does Paul’s example here challenge this view and broaden your appreciation of prayer?
Prayer | Lord, help us not to forget but to remember before You those whom we long for. Reassure us of our unbreakable connection thanks to Jesus and Your Holy Spirit. Out of our gratitude for them, hear us as we seek more of Your love to be unleashed in their lives. Amen.