Day 2

Thanksgiving and Prayer

from the Philippians reading plan

Philippians 1:3-11, Acts 16:16-40, Philemon 1:4-7

BY Melanie Rainer

Early into this past Advent season, I wrote letters until the ring finger on my right hand blistered. For two days straight, I wrote cards of gratitude and joy for each of the volunteers in the children’s ministry I lead, followed by cards filled with stickers and sweet words for every child (ages three and over) in my ministry. In each child’s card, I wrote a variation on a similar theme, but all had the same conclusion: “I hope you always remember how much Jesus loves you.”

I assume these cards were tossed aside in the holiday hubbub, or purged in the seemingly requisite January clean-out that most families undertake. As I wrote, I kept thinking, Do these words matter? Is it worth the time? Maybe the cards matter, maybe they don’t, but I know the words on them do. And every time I penned that phrase, I prayed the child who received the card would take it to heart.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians starts with similar sentiments, echoing ancient truths and the hope that the words within the letter would sink down deep into the hearts of those who would read it. This opening exhortation to his readers in Philippi offers a template for godly relationships of believers deeply committed to sharing the love of Christ. Paul expressed gratitude for the Philippians, “for every remembrance” of them (Philippians 1:3), as well as their partnership in the spread of the gospel.

Paul has a history with the Philippians, and it is on this rich foundation that he builds this really beautiful letter. In Acts 16, we see that when Paul first came to Philippi, a woman called Lydia was converted to faith, and then she and her family invited Paul to stay with them. Their generous hospitality was marked by open ears, open hearts, and open homes.

Later in the chapter, Paul and Silas were arrested, and in the end, the Lord delivered them from prison. However, during their imprisonment, one of their jailers became a believer, and also welcomed Paul and Silas to his home: “He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had come to believe in God with his entire household” (Acts 16:34).

Paul seems to care very deeply for the Philippians. As modern readers, we know the rest of this letter will hold both caution and affection. But this beautiful opening reveals the heart and intent behind Paul’s words. We see in these verses how godly relationships work when they are anchored in love for the gospel; there is push and pull, earnest prayer, and deep care for one other’s true well-being and spiritual growth.

As I write, I see the faces of those believers who I know I can cling to with the same godly affection Paul has for the Philippians, who balance their love for me with their desire for me to grow more like Jesus every day. They aren’t afraid to whisper (or shout) rebuke in love, and they bathe their strong words in prayer for my sanctification. These people have partnered with me in the hard work of sharing the gospel with a world that has become increasingly hostile toward it.

I am so thankful for these friends, and today I pray for them in the same way Paul prayed for his friends in Philippi: “that [their] love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment,” and that they would “be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9–11).

Post Comments (81)

81 thoughts on "Thanksgiving and Prayer"

  1. Emily Dashner says:

    Please pray, it has been a tough week or so. One of my coworkers passed away from an overdose. She was a bright sunshiney person whenever you saw her. I loved working with her. This past Saturday was her funeral and I didn’t go and now I think maybe I should’ve because of closure. I just get so mad and sad at the same time about it. I truly miss her. And it’s been hard on my coworkers too. Please pray for everyone that knew her and for me to find closure. Thanks.

  2. Susan Crosby says:

    This is the second time in the reading that someone believed in the Lord and their whole household. Comforting words when you have unsaved family members.

  3. Ana Lisa Johnson says:

    It strikes me that at the end of today’s passage in Philippians, Paul writes that he prays the believers would grow in righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. I got stuck on that phrase because I don’t want to strive for any other kind of righteousness, except that which comes through Jesus. So much of my days are spent trying to be “good Christian” and the do the right thing, even agonizing over decisions when it seems there is no clear right or wrong. Lord, help me only to be righteous because of you alone!! I am tired of trying to be good on my own. I need you desperately.

  4. Jenny says:

    You have these believers here to cling to! She reads truth believers!

  5. Emily Guerra says:

    Hi ladies!! I love reading all of your comments to see how you relate to the passages and to also know what’s going on in everyone’s lives. I pray that the Lord works through any struggles you might be facing or even the moments of joy and happiness. I know when I was reading through today’s reading that one thing really stuck out to me. In Acts 16:16-18 we see the slave girl who is crying out against Paul and Silas. I myself even checked out loud when I read that Paul was “greatly annoyed” by this. I guess I find being “annoyed” to be a very of today’s society emotion even though that’s totally not the case! While this made me chuckle out loud the next part when it says that Paul turned to the spirit shut me right up! I find it absolutely amazing that even though Paul was annoyed by this girl, he didn’t react towards her out of his own strength/frustrations, he looked to the Lord and asked for his strength. In that moment I thought to myself, how often to I react towards others that annoy me from a place of my own strength and not the Lord’s? Most times I never go to God first when someone has wronged me, I react with my human side. Sorry this is quite long winded but it was something that I felt really called me out and needed to be said. Praying that this week be full of new adventures and blessings!!

  6. Christine Taylor says:

    I have no “believers I can cling to” in my life. Reading these verses fills me with longing. It’s a reminder for me to praise God in all things – always. And really trust that He has me and knows all.

  7. K D says:

    I don’t know how Paul does it. How he practices so much joy in the midst of tribulation. But he does – singing hymns and praying while stuck in jail. Oh Lord – help me to learn to turn to you only in the midst of struggle.

  8. Lindsey says:

    Something that really stuck out to me was in the book of Acts where they’re [the Judges] about to let Paul & Silas out of the city [quietly] because they are scared that Paul & Silas are Roman citizens, Paul is like, “Whatever, if you want us to leave then you guys come and lead us out of the city in broad daylight”.

    Not gonna lie, if I got out of prison I wouldn’t be as vocal and bold as Paul here. I love his boldness though. ;-)

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