"And This I Pray"
When Paul prayed unto God on behalf of the Philippians (Phil. 1:9), there were several elements involved which made it an effectual prayer. (James 5:18) This does not concern the items for which he prayed; rather, there are motives, conditions and circumstances which should be considered as exemplary to the child of God today. Perhaps a majority of religious people have lost confidence in the effectiveness of prayer. Christians, even, are beginning to doubt the effectiveness of prayer, except as the reflexive good it has upon the one who prays. This may have come about because they are expecting things which God has not promised (1 John 4:14), or they are expecting a miracle at a time when God is not causing miracles to be performed (1 Cor. 13:8-10), or they may have lost sight of the proper motives and circumstances of prayer. (Phil. 1:3-8; James 4:3)
Thankful For The Faithful
Prayers often become selfishly greedy. We desire something, do not consider the needs and well being of others, and do not even consider the personal blessings for which we ought to be thankful. We become selfishly greedy to the point of covetousness, asking God to fulfill such ambitions and unlawful desires, then want to blame God for not hearing such effrontery, and use the failure to receive as an occasion to blaspheme God by accusing him of not fulfilling his word.
Paul was thankful to God at his every remembrance of the Philippians. This is the place where they had whipped him and bound him in the stocks of a felon's prison. Should he not have remembered that place with a venomous vengeance? Perhaps we would have, but not Paul. That is the difference between thinking according to the natural fleshly impulses and living by the spirit. Those whom he remembered were children of God, people who had permitted their lives to be molded by the gospel which Paul had preached to them, and had manifested it by the care for him and assistance to him from the very beginning. Since they were fulfilling the very purpose of his life he would essentially let these things far outweigh the bitter things which had come to him in their city. There should be thanksgiving in our prayers, for the blessings we receive and for the faithful in Christ Jesus everywhere.
Supplication For Others
Prayer should not be bounded by our personal needs. If petitions and supplications are directed to God as worship to him, they should consider God and his will above the will and personal desire of the suppliant. (Matt. 6:10; 28:39) God's will includes others besides one's own self. Then I should be concerned with, and pray on behalf of, others. Paul made supplication for the Philippians always in his prayers. Take stock of your prayer. Is it overweighted with self? Does it consider the faithful in Christ? In the words of a song perhaps seldom sung now, "I want my friends to pray for me." I also need to pray for my friends.
Our supplications for many would not be expected to be with joy. They might be overtaken in trespasses and sins. They might be burdened heavily with grief and sadness. They might be under severe mental, bodily or physical distress. But when children of God are working, growing, and in happy fellowship with God and with one another, it is time for joy. We should still pray for them that they may abound in these blessings and duties, but we can and should make such supplication with joy. That is the apostolic example which Paul has given us.
The effectiveness of prayer is destroyed if the person prays with little or no confidence in God as to the fulfilling of his petitions. James said by inspiration that we are to pray for wisdom and that God will give liberally. He gives a limitation, however. We are to pray without any doubt. The man who doubts is double-minded and that kind of man is not to think that he will receive anything of the Lord. (James 1:5-7) The Lord taught his disciples; "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matt. 21:22) We are not to presume that this one condition for acceptable effectual prayer will override and exclude all other conditions which the Lord has given; but this is one that we are to have in our prayers.
Paul had confidence that God who had begun a good work in the Philippians would continue to do so, hence he could pray that they would continue and be edified. Perhaps he had great confidence in the Philippians themselves; but the confidence which motivated his prayer for them was in God, who could grant his petition which was according to God's will.
Others In Our Hearts
Paul said he was praying for them, "because I have you in my heart." Are our hearts large enough and pliant enough to embrace all our brethren? "Love the brotherhood." (1 Pet. 1:17) A sister recently remarked that she wished all the "antis" were wiped off the face of the earth. She was speaking of her brethren in the Lord as she said that. Do you suppose that she was carrying out Peter's inspired injunction to love the brotherhood? Can you imagine a statement like that from the lips of one who has her brethren in her heart? The two just do not go together. We can not have others in our hearts and have the bitter, angry and malicious thoughts and actions which characterize many in this generation.
Still others have hearts only big enough to take in their own personal things; sometimes not even big enough to take in their closest friends. They have drawn the circle of their hearts so close that they have excluded God and his Son. Our prayers are as broad as our love.
(missing in copy) [Thi]s man of God longed after the saints at Philippi. This will encourage fervent prayer on the behalf of others, as it did with the apostle Paul. Christians should have a yearning for the salvation of others, for the spiritual growth of brethren, for the blessings upon all, which God alone can give. The preacher who has no yearning for souls is little more than a hireling. He who is more concerned with his reputation for calls to preach and responses to his preaching for the good report he can make, than for the spiritual good of his hearers, should quit preaching and go into the entertainment profession.
Acceptable, effectual prayer is not a mere cold form of words. Every word uttered, every expression breathed, every petition made, might be in complete conformance to truth, yet be empty and vain. It may have been given without the proper motives of the heart. We need to be sure that we are worshipping in spirit and truth (Jno 4:23- 24); and that it is not a part of the grievous times when men have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
— 1932 S. Weller, Springfield, Mo.