The Apostle Paul sat in jail. He had been arrested for his testimony about Jesus and the power of His Gospel; yep, there he was, chained up in jail alone, miserable, unhappy and afraid… or so we might have thought. I wonder what would I do if that guy chained up in an ancient prison cell had been me…
Yet it wasn’t me, it was Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Let’s see what he was doing in this miserable circumstance.
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, 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 and, 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.
Maybe it isn’t all that surprising that he was writing letters, after all he was neither the first nor the last prisoner to write letters home, but from these verses we can see that he’s also been praying. Maybe that isn’t such a shock either, lots of prisoners pray in prison, some for the very first time I would imagine, but did you notice that he isn’t praying for himself?
Paul is remembering his friends in Philippi, and giving thanks to God for them. He doesn’t sound miserable, for he says that he is filled with joy because of the partnership of the Philippians with him in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would seem that our Paul feels thankful and joyful, because of the people in Philippi for they share not only in the gospel, but in God’s grace with Paul. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing that God’s grace might not come to mind for me if I was locked in prison and bound in chains.
Paul misses his friends.
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 for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Paul prays for his friends. Look carefully at his prayer, for it contains something for us to reflect upon: Paul’s prayer is not just for them to prosper in their faith and do well, it is for them to grow in their love, knowledge and depth of insight, so that they may be found pure and blameless on the day of the Lord so that they might give glory to God! Yes, that’s right, Paul’s prayer is one of purpose− God’s purpose.
While the rest of us might be demanding answers from God, Paul is praying for God’s purpose, for God’s glory. Yes, let us reflect upon this!
To put others before oneself as Jesus did.
I’ve often wondered about Paul’s prison letters. These days letters from prisoners (whether civil or POW) are monitored to be sure they don’t contain “inappropriate” things. I have to assume Rome did the same thing. Would they have redacted the letters, or simply thrown them away? Are there letters we are missing? Did Paul carefully word his letters? Doesn’t seem so, since some of what he says is the reason he was in prison. Did followers smuggle the letters out? If so, again, some of those letters must have been found.
These are all great questions. Most scholars believe that Paul was allowed many visitors who simply carried his letters out and took them to their destinations by hand, which would have been normal enough in the days before postal service as we know it. Yet of course, that raises another question: How do they know this for certain? I have no answer for that one 😊
The last few verses of the book of Acts come to mind relative to some of these questions, though I don’t know if these 2 years of “house arrest” were when he wrote this letter to the Philippians.