These are Powerful Things - Bev Schmoyer

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. It is only right for me to feel this way about you. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ." - Philippians 1:3-8

This is a tender scene! It tells a special story of the Spirit, an inspired account of the intimate and affectionate relationship that flourished between the gospel preacher and a congregation who supported him in his work. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is sometimes described as a love letter. Even the first few verses make it clear why Paul and the Philippians enjoyed a tremendous bond of Christian friendship – where each party held the other in affection, love and support of “Thanksgiving”. This letter overflows with Paul’s gratitude for their support – both when he was among them and when he was apart and suffering in prison.

But these verses also show us part of the nature of prayer. There are two elements in particular that deserve our attention. First, thanksgiving is at the heart of prayer, and it is a tremendously powerful thing. Paul begins this section of his letter with a simple but profound statement, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to start our letters or conversations like this! Try it. The next time you have a conversation with a friend, start by telling the other person that every time you think of her or him, you give God thanks for their friendship and support. Or the next time you have a meeting, start by telling the whole group why you are grateful to work with them. Or the next time you sit down with your family, turn to each one and say what you are grateful for about each one.

Thanksgiving is powerful because it builds up the other person – names what is beautiful and wonderful and links it to the goodness of God, the giver of all gifts. Each of us could do with a little more thanksgiving in our life. Paul gives thanks for the Philippians, and because he treasures them he also prays for their wellbeing, praying, “That your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best.”

The second element is prayer. We sometimes think of prayer as an individual matter giving thanks for the good we have received or beseeching God for our needs. But prayer can also be deeply communal as we seek after the welfare of those we know and love. Love can be described most simply as a commitment to seek unfailingly the good of another. And this is Paul’s prayer. We can practice this too. Thinking in our minds for those we know, live with, work with, play with, and asking in our prayers that God would strengthen in them what is good and prepare them for the challenges ahead!

Giving thanks, seeking after and praying for the welfare of another, these are powerful things, not only for those we pray for, but also for ourselves. It draws us beyond ourselves for the good of another. I thank my God, every time I remember you!

Dear God, let us give thanks for all the people you have placed in our lives, seeking after their welfare and entrusting their strengths and needs to your love. In Jesus name, Amen.

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