Paul’s letter to the Philippian church begins with a reflection: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3). Paul had developed a close relationship with the people of this church, and his love for them is evident in his prayer for them and throughout the epistle. All believers should show their love for one another not just in word but in actions and in truth (1 John 3:18), and that includes praying for one another.
Paul was thankful for the believers in Philippi. The church there had been founded during his second missionary journey (Acts 16), and they shared with Paul a “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:5). The believers in Philippi had faithfully supported Paul’s ministry over the years (Philippians 4:16), even when he was imprisoned. He was thankful for their support, and he was thankful for their faith.
Paul’s ongoing relationship with this church revealed a heart of gratitude that allowed him to say that he thanked God upon every remembrance of them. Every time he thought of the Philippian believers, whether he was praying or conversing with someone else, Paul thanked God for them. Philippians 1:3–8 further shows the joy, love, and care Paul had for the believers at Philippi. Theirs was a relationship that affected the apostle’s prayers: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (Philippians 1:4).
Philippi had been a difficult place in which to preach the gospel. Paul and Silas were unjustly thrown in jail there and beaten before their release. Such harsh treatment from the ungodly in Philippi made the faith and commitment of the believers there that much sweeter. Paul’s gratitude is directed toward God, who alone is the Savior and Lord of the church. Paul knew that “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Christians are called to love one another (John 13:34–35; 15:12; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:11), and one way we can do that is by praying for one another. We are called to pray for fellow believers (Ephesians 6:18), for ministers of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19–20), for the persecuted church (Hebrews 13:3), and for all people (1 Timothy 2:1). Praying for others gets the focus off ourselves and reminds us that we are a body of believers. It allows us to “carry each other’s burdens,” which fulfills the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). We, too, can thank God upon every remembrance of believers around the world, for we all have the hope of Christ.
Believers comprise the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), and we should be thanking God for the salvation and the ministry we share at every remembrance. The eye should be thankful for the foot, the lungs should be thankful for the heart, etc. There’s a definite partnership in the body. Just as the Philippian believers had a “partnership in the gospel” with Paul (Philippians 1:5), so we have a partnership in the gospel with those who serve Christ elsewhere. All believers are united in the gospel. As we pray for one another, we can be filled with joy and confidence “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).