PAUL’S PRISON PRAYER 1:3-11 (Part 1)
The Philippian salutation is followed by a prayer. Physical ministry to these believers due to his imprisonment, but his prayer ministry is unlimited. We observe the text we see that this section is divided between thanksgiving (v. 3-8) and request (9-11). The thanksgiving is dominated by the pronoun “I” (v 3, 4, 7, 8, 9), while the request is dominated by the pronoun “you” (v. 9, 10). However, the “I” is always used in conjunction with “you” in this text:
I thank … remembrance of you
My every prayer… for you
I have you…
I long for you…’
I pray that your love
Thus, the “I” is always used in a selfless way, not in a selfish way. The “I” always seeks out the “you” in this passage. “I” designates Paul’s’ action, which cannot be separated from the Philippians. Paul’s action has as its object the believers at
is the “I” of humility. “In his most dire need, he was benevolent, altruistic,
and other-centered,” observes Gromacki.
“I thank my God” (1:3) opens this first section of the prison prayer. Thanksgiving is the first item of prayers by Paul. His thanksgiving is always directed to God. It is also continual, for he is using the present active indicative tense. In this case he adds the pronoun “my.” It denotes his relationship with God; it is personal, not abstract nor impersonal. It denotes not only a personal relationship, but a vital connection and dependence upon God (cf. Acts 27:23; Gal. 2:20). It expresses intense devotion. It literally reads: “the God of me.” “Gratitude to God is uppermost in Paul’s mind.” Gratitude is an element that drives us closer to God. It is the element of praising and glorifying God. The lack thereof drives us away from God and robs Him of glory (cf. Rom. 3:21).
The occasion of his prayer is “in all my remembrance of you” (1:3). It is possible to translate this phrase as “in all your remembrance of me,” but is not well supported. However both are valid translations. Paul’s gratitude is most likely based up his memories of them, no doubt from their mutual ministry, fellowship, and friendship in the gospel. Remembrance should spark our hearts to “always offering prayer with joy” (1:4) for those believers we know, as it did in Paul. (Interestingly the word prayer and request in verse 4 of the KJV is the same Greek word).
The reasons for Paul’s thankfulness of the Philippians are threefold:
1. “In view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5). The word “for” as the KJV translates is not a connective, but a preposition (epi) normally translated “upon.” It denotes the basis or ground upon which something is done. It is probably best to translate it as “because.” This verse sets forth three things: First, their common participation or fellowship. The Greek is koinonia meaning to share in; fellowship, communion or participation. It has a secondary meaning of contribution. Thus, included in this idea of participation/fellowship may be the collection sent for Paul’s ministry. Fellowship results in “tangible assistance.” Paul uses this word twice as often as other NT writers, often as a participant, sharer (1 Cor. 10:18; 2 Cor. 1:7) or a partner (1 Cor. 10:20; 2 Cor. 8:23; Philme 17). Second, this participation/fellowship was “in the gospel,” as well as grace (1:7), the Holy Spirit (2:1), suffering (3:20), and in giving (4:14-15). It denotes active cooperation in ministry of taking the gospel to the gentiles. The
the other churches in participation in the gospel (Phil 4:15). They did so
willing and joyfully (2 Cor. 8:2-3). Third, their continual or constant
participation/fellowship: “from the first day until now.” This denotes their faithfulness
in ministry. It began at the time of their conversion and continued constantly.
They met the requirement of stewardship (1 Cor. 4:2). church
2. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). Paul is confident of both the Philippians and God. If the first reason of thanksgiving centers upon the Philippians, the second centers on the work of God. In verse 5 we saw the perseverance of saints; in verse 6 we see the preservation of God. The two go hand in hand. One cannot persevere without the preservation of God. Paul is confident in the work of God preserving them by his work in them. God will not fail them in the work of ministry and in the gospel. Here is the secret behind their participation in the gospel. First, what God began was the good work. “He who began a good work in you” speaks of God’s personal involvement in their lives and ministry from the very start. It began in salvation. It has been noticed that the personal pronoun is used, and not the name of God. Hendricksen notes that this is often done to emphasize the activity of God, rather than the person of God. God’s preservation includes: an unending faithfulness by God (Psa. 89:33), no separation (
Rom. 8:29-30); the sealing of the
Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14), and His ability to keep His word (Rom. 4:21). It is
not our work, but God working in and through us as the reason we can persevere.
It is a co-labor relationship (1 Cor. 3:9; Phil. 2:12-13). Perseverance cannot
be created by the Philippians; rather it is the creative work or activity of
God, initiated by Him and will be completed by Him through the means of the
Philippians. God began the good work and He will finish it. He “will perfect it
until the day of Christ Jesus.” The word perfect (epiteleo) means to bring to
an end, complete, or realization. It speaks of His faithfulness (cf. 1 Thess.
5:24). It denotes certainty of completion and the assurance of that completion.
The time of completion is in the day of Christ Jesus. This speaks of the day in
which Christ comes for His church. It involves the resurrection and translation
of the saints (1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). Then we shall be what we
should be. We will be glorified in His sight (Rom. 8:30).
3. He is thankful for their relationship with one another. “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me” (1:7). While scholars see an end of thanksgiving with verse 6, I think verse 7 indicates a new thought or reason for Paul’s thanksgiving for this assembly. Hawthorne notes that Paul “frequently begins a sentence with kathos not followed by outos, and in so doing gives to kathos something of the meaning of “because”…He does that here and thus connects v 7 with vv3-6 to show that his gratitude to God for each one of the Philippians, his joy over them, his confident expectation of their constant fidelity, are feeling on his part that are justly and rightly due them.” It is a reinforcement or confirmation of his feelings and thankfulness for them. His affection for them is a spring to his thankfulness. The object is that they “all are partakers of grace with me.” He was thankful because they were sharers of grace together (with me). They share the grace of suffering (bonds) and the ministry. “Both had been saved by grace, and both were experiencing sustaining grace in the midst of their respective trials” says Gromacki. It is a reference to God’s sustaining grace working through His people. They shared that grace together. It speaks of the process of His completing His work in them
This affection and thankfulness created in him a desire for them. “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (1:8). He expresses that God witnesses his desire and longing for them. The text brings out that this longing was a strong intense desire. The object of this desire was them (for you), not their gifts (cf. Phil. 4:1). His desire was wrapped in the affection of Christ. It was an affection that was patterned after (Phil 2:5), and energized by Christ’s love (cf. Gal. 2:20).
 Gromacki, STAND UNITED IN JOY, 34.
 O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 56.
 On this see
Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 16. However, O’Brien supports it,
 Gromacki, 38
 Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 50
 William Hendricksen, NTC:PHILIPPIANS, 94.
 Hendricksen, 54.
 O’Brien, 65.
 Gromacki, 42.
 Hendricksen, 58.