“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…” Such is apostle Paul’s attitude towards the believers he is writing his letters to. This particular quote is from Philippians 1:3-5, NIV. Each letter of Paul from the New Testament, besides the one to the Galatians, contains in its beginning a special part in which the apostle expresses his thanksgiving to God for the brothers and sisters he is writing to. The paragraph of thanksgiving is a typical part of the personal letters in Paul’s time. Unique, however, is the way in which he decides to give thanks. While the secular letters expressed thanks to the gods for various personal issues, such as health, welfare, etc. Paul thanks to God and not for issues of his own, but for the recipients of his letter – his family in Christ.
Besides the thanksgiving Paul also writes about how he (and often the others who are with him) is praying for the recipients of the letter. It is namely this part of the letters that we ought to pay special attention should we want to pray for other Christians – from our own church, but also for believers from far and beyond our area.
Philippians 1:6-11 continues: “… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (NIV)
One can learn several important truths about prayer for the other believers – our family in Christ. As you go on, open your heart and mind for God’s Spirit who will help you to apply in your daily living a similar attitude towards all Christians. The Spirit will also help you to pray sincerely for them, so that your prayers will be pleasing to God.
The first truth is simple to recognize – we must pray for other Christians – not only for those from your own country, but also for Christians from throughout the globe. Just as apostle Paul wasn’t satisfied with prayer for the church of one city alone, so should we also have a broader view over God’s body of believers. Daily set aside time for prayer for the believers who are not closely around you – pray for other churches from your town; pray for all churches from your own country; pray for the needs of Christians outside your country.
As you pray for the brothers and sisters in the faith do not pray with some artificial general prayer. Pray sincerely and for specific needs instead. If you do not know what the current needs of those believers are – use Paul’s prayer from Philippians 1:9-11.
Do not forget also to thank God for the Christians that you are praying for. Very often we take the presence of other Christians for granted. This is a serious mistake. My life, as well as yours has been strongly impacted by the lives of those whom we take for granted. Without them our lives would look very different. In addition, one’s faith in God is best expressed among other believers. Praying for these others will encourage you and will open a way for God’s Spirit to plant more and more love for them in you.
Your sincere prayer for the believers will not only lead to unity in God’s body – which is how God wants to see us, but will also fill your life with a daily portion of joy for the fact that God is at work in the lives of so many people… People, that we tend to forget about in the most difficult times. Pray for the saints as you are praying for yourself!