Strength in Humility – Humility in Prayer (Part 2)

This is a 3-part series that I’ve been doing while meditating on the book of Philippians. From the depths of my heart, I hope this blesses you. 

Phil 1:1-2

This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

From the start, Paul referred himself as the lowest slave addressing the Philippian church as “God’s holy people” as well as respecting the positions of the “elders and deacons” even though he was the one who planted this church and was a man of immense influence over the church.

This is coming from Paul’s attitude of humility in serving as a mere slave in the kingdom of God. When we serve, such as offering to pray for others, do we do it in a way where we just want to show off our leadership or spirituality? Or do we take praying for others as a means of serving and ministering as a servant of God?

A prayer from an arrogant heart with an intention to impress others with puffed up spirituality will never touch a person’s heart. Such prayers are usually long, clichéd, filled with exaggerated expressions of power and usually do not directly minister to the person’s needs.

How did Paul pray?

1. Paul prayed in humility

Phil 1:1

This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.

Paul prayed as a servant and not a leader.

2. Paul prayed in joy

Phil 1:4

Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy.

His prayer was made out of joy instead of obligation. When was the last time you were happy to pray for the blessings of someone else? Are we comfortable with God’s blessings and destiny for someone else? Can we rejoice in someone else’s deliverance and salvation despite our own sufferings, flaws and issues?

3. Paul prayed in thanksgiving

Phil 1:3

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.

As we stay longer in church, we will encounter people who are incredibly difficult to pray for and love. Sometimes we wish these people didn’t exist, much less want to thank God and pray for them. However, as much as the Philippian church had its own flaws and discord, Paul thanked God for them every time he thought about them, which shows that not once has he ever thought of the church and complained about their flaws or lack of results.

4. Paul prayed in encouragement

Phil 1:6

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 

The prayer that Paul prayed was also an encouragement to the Philippians. In our prayers, don’t focus on what is the negative or worse, condemn the person’s flaws (etc. “God I pray that you will make ____ more faithful, let him/her change for the better, stop sinning against you, have a better attitude… *This will only lead to the person feeling like he/she is not god enough in the eyes of the Lord.*)

Luke 6:41-42 (NLT)

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

We are all flawed in our own ways, so let’s humbly encourage one another in weakness instead of trying to remove specks from people’s eyes.

5. Paul prayed in his suffering

Phil 1:7

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.

Even in our own suffering, we should not be saying “I’m also suffering and I’m suffering even more than you. Shouldn’t I be the one receiving prayer?” Instead, a prayer in humility means that we put aside our own sufferings and pray out of love for others.

6. Paul prayed out of love

Phil 1:8

God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

It’s only when we pray out of love, what we pray will be sincerely wanting the best for the person. A prayer in arrogance shows off our own spiritual knowledge and “anointing” instead of what we want for the person because we love him/her.

Praying in love also means that if this person has ever offended us in the past, whether or not he or she knows about it, we have to forgive them, release them from the grudges and hatred in our hearts, and bless them from the bottom of our hearts.

7. Paul prayed for what would bring glory to God

Phil 1:9-11

I pray your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ – for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Although the Philippian church was in suffering, instead of praying for deliverance, Paul prayed for “what really matters”. Paul knew that if the Philippians had the knowledge and understanding, righteousness of Christ, and fruits of salvation, they would be able to go through any trial and become a strong united church.

More often than not, our prayers for others are filled with demands to God to bless, to deliver, to save, to heal. As much as all those things are important, a prayer in humility is one that surrenders the person to the will of God. We must remember that it is not the strength in our demands that bring God’s breakthrough, but a surrender to His sovereignty. It is more important for someone to be on the right track with God than to have everything else made right.


One thought on “Strength in Humility – Humility in Prayer (Part 2)”

  1. Ezra, I’m behind in my reading, so I apologize for the lateness of this response. First, let me say this post is no exception. Once again your posts are thoughtful and provoking. Philippians has always proven uplifting; so glad to see that you also have benefited from reflections on the truths to be found within.

    However, there are two small things with which I cannot 100% agree. The first involves this: “Such prayers are usually long, clichéd, filled with exaggerated expressions of power and usually do not directly minister to the person’s needs.”. On face value, since you say ‘usually’, there is room to ruminate on whether you have ever heard or experienced yourself an exception to the statement. It may in fact be generally true.

    Yet, my experience says long prayers without the presence of the other things, often reveal a heart deeply knelt before God in humility on a regular basis. Paul’s prayers themselves are long in comparison to many made-for-sound-bite prayers of today. Granted, when hearing a long heartfelt prayer, often (for me) it is in the presence of one or two deeply committed, intimate prayer partners. When praying together even two or three, it is so quickly that an hour passes. There is so much for which to intercede on behalf of others, crying out to God is the only action possible. I’m guessing you have experienced this as well?

    The second observation is also more of a question. “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ”. You focused on the next part – bringing glory to God. That is 100% true. Seems that vertical and heart relationship with God are the center of most, if not all, of Paul’s prayers. What popped out at me was the singular FRUIT of salvation to which Paul refers. The fruit then being explained by Paul as “the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ”.

    Now here is where the challenge is for me. I do not speak Hebrew, and I have no seminary training; nor do I want to nit-pick. I am really a curious person. When you added your thoughts, you used the phrase “fruits of salvation”, and I know that there are many benefits we gain from salvation – part, present, future – yet, I thought the verse said something quite different in this instance. Paul, a lawyer seemed razor sharp, laser pointed, in stating the ONE thing that would hold the Philippians tight was the “Character produced …by Jesus Christ”.

    I thought he was saying that this is the one fruit of salvation they needed in their situation. And that He was praying not only into their situation and in to God’s glory, but that God’s will would be done in their hearts *thru* the suffering. (Cross reference: 2 Peter 1:5-8… “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Or the entire chapter.

    Okay, so there it is. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

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