We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
Paul was such a loving, thankful prayer warrior! Just about every letter he wrote began with a powerful exaltation of God and a deep sense of thankfulness—thankful for his brothers and sisters in the faith, but even more so for the Christ who rescued him from his murderous path. This was a man who lived what he preached, loved who he served, and cared deeply for those he sought to disciple. The opening lines of his letters provide us with a glimpse into the heart of this amazing man, as well as a guide for us to follow if we want to get serious about our roles as intercessors for one another.
The Anglican priest C.F.D. Moule said, “Thanksgiving is the instinct of the life of grace.” Oftentimes, when we wonder why animals do this or that, the answer is always the same—it must be instinct. The same could and should be said for us on this side of the cross. If there was someone in your life who had literally snatched you from the jaws of death, I’m sure you would never grow weary in saying “Thanks.” This is evident in the life of Paul, even as he labored over the churches and fought the good fight of faith.
We always thank God…when we pray for you.
It seems fitting, then, since God has snatched every Believer from the jaws of eternal death, that all of our prayers be bathed in thanksgiving…but especially from the opening stanzas. Small ones…long ones…desperate ones…even prayers over meals…all should resound with a theme song of thanks. But additionally, Paul sets the bar for us by always engaging in intercessory prayer. I’m sure Paul presented his own needs to the Lord on a regular if not daily basis (Phil 4:6), but what is highlighted for us in the pages of his epistles is his dedication to praying for the needs of others. How often do you labor in prayer over others rather than self? That’s an accounting we should all consider.
Alexander Whyte, in his powerful essay Starving Prayer, wrote that, “I am as certain as I am standing here, that the secret of much mischief to our own souls, and to the souls of others, lies in the way that we stint, and starve, and scamp our prayers, by hurrying over them.” We can tell what matters most to us by the amount of time we invest in it. For some, it’s their careers—and that takes time, no doubt, which is not a sin, but how much of your heart and mind does it occupy after hours? For others, it’s their social life or leisure time. Again, not bad things in and of themselves, but what kind of influence do that have over your heart and mind? But for every follower of Christ, we must wrestle with this issue of prayer…and how we choose to invest in its deployment.
We give to others what they need;
We show no greater care
Than when we give them to the Lord,
Surrounding them with prayer.
– D J De Haan
The best way to influence people for God…is to intercede with God for people.