The Apostle Paul and Praying about Praying (Philippians 1:9-11)

The following is an excerpt from Bill Mills’ book, A Gospel Worthy of Your Life: Orienting Every Resource, Attitude, and Passion around the Cross.


Because the affections of Paul’s heart were deeply knit into his brothers and sisters in Philippi, and he was now in prison, his ministry to them in this present reality was focused on prayer. He was committed to partnering with God in the work He was doing in this great church. Paul knew he could do that through prayers of intercession.

It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment. (Philippians 1:9)

Is that not a wonderful way to pray? May your love flourish more and more! In your relationships with one another, in your care for me and our work together in the gospel, in your heart for Christ, may love flow until it fills everything we are and all that we do. Along with that love, may God give you wisdom and understanding, to know Him, His ways and His purposes,

so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:10–11)

Paul also asked God to enable his brothers and sisters in Philippi to affirm and pursue those things that are best, to live holy lives as they prepare for the return of their Lord, and to be filled up with all that flows from a right relationship with their God. Christ is the only resource that brings those hopes to reality and results in God being worshiped and glorified.

When we read Paul’s prayer for his beloved brothers and sisters, we sense that Paul is asking God to do the very things He must desire to fulfill among them! How is it that Paul prays with such understanding? I think Paul had given much thought and even prayer as he began to intercede for this church.

Rather than assume what God wanted to do in their midst or simply asking God to be with them, bless them, or provide what they needed, Paul spent time in God’s presence with a listening heart. I believe he asked God to enable him to see this church through His eyes and to cause his heart to be sensitive to what God purposed to do in them. These were the very things Paul brought back to the Lord as he interceded for his people. Then he wrote to them the very things he was asking God to do in them.

We see this same pattern of intercession in Paul’s letters to the churches at Colossae and Ephesus. He prays so knowledgeably for the people God has entrusted to him in ministry, and I believe it is because he sought the Lord in prayer, asking God to open his eyes to the needs of his people and to God’s purposes for them before he assumed what they needed or simply asked God’s blessing on them.

This is a powerful pattern for our own prayers of intercession. When we pray for our children or our parents, for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, for pastors and leaders, for missions and missionaries, and for those God has entrusted to us, it is good to “pray about praying.” We cannot assume what those people need or what God desires or just ask, “Please bless so-and-so.” Pray with knowledge, and with God’s heart, and then write to those you are praying for and tell them what you are asking God to do in and for them!

This is How My Lord Jesus Has Taught Me to Love: Loving an Enemy in the Face of Persecution


The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:8 to “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord . . . but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” The following story of a man we have trained in Southeast Asia illustrates this verse well.

Gunadi* was a Muslim for twenty-five years and a teacher of Islam. His wife and three kids were Muslim, and he taught them in their religion.  

One day Gunadi traveled to a town known for having many Christians. He initially dreaded the visit, but to his surprise, the Christians he met were friendly and hospitable – a special new experience for Gunadi. 

Gunadi traveled to this city a second time, and again, had a special experience when he came upon a huge monument of the cross while traversing the city.  

When I saw that cross, there were mixed feelings inside of me. I was used to hating the cross, and I taught my followers to hate the cross. . . . I should’ve had feelings of even greater hate for such a large cross – but praise the Lord, what I felt was a feeling of need.

This experience motivated Gunadi to begin listening to a Christian radio station – with headphones, of course. He would never want his family to know he was listening to a Christian broadcast! Then months later after listening to the radio broadcast, Gunadi prayed along with the radio pastor and received Jesus as his Savior. That was October 2012. 

The feelings that came up were of peace and joy, but I understood at that point that the journey ahead would not be easy.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, you and your household.”

A couple of months went by and there was a difference in my house. My wife and my three children were confused, seeing me as a teacher of Islam now telling them about Jesus Christ. 

One night my wife came to me and she told me, “Tonight I will receive Jesus Christ.”

One night my wife came to me and she told me, “Tonight I will receive Jesus Christ.” My wife called all my children one by one. And to my surprise she had already taught the children to believe! That night each of my children came and told me that they had received Jesus Christ. That night was a very joyful night.

Confident in the Face of Persecution

[The conversion of my family] made me very grateful to the Lord and also gave me confidence to be a bold witness to others. With the minimal knowledge that I had, I started to teach those surrounding me. I reached out to the people that were my followers as a Muslim teacher.

One day, Gunadi shared the gospel with some former students, angering a family member of one of the students. This family member approached Gunadi with a small sword and stabbed him. 

I tried to defend myself. To save my life I had to break that man’s arm. I was bleeding at that point, but I brought my attacker to the hospital with me. I asked the hospital to treat him first instead of me, because his arm was broken and his bone was sticking out. It’s funny when I think of it now – I took my attacker to the hospital and paid for all of his expenses. After he was taken care of, then I asked the hospital to treat me.

A few months after the attack, this man came up to me. He was confused because he had stabbed me and I was still willing to help him and pay for all the treatment for his broken arm. He asked me, “Why are you doing this?” My answer was very simple: I told him, “This is how my Lord Jesus has taught me to love.” 

Until now that person is still not a believer. But praise the Lord, a couple people who know my attacker and me have heard this story and have become believers as a result.

“Why are you doing this?” My answer was very simple: I told him, “This is how my Lord Jesus has taught me to love.”

This isn’t the only time Gunadi has suffered for Jesus. Bricks have shattered windows in his house because of the gospel. Another time, while conversing with “friends” of a different religion, he noticed that the sweet tea given him to drink tasted strangely bitter. He had been poisoned. 

At the hospital, the doctor told me that the amount of poison in my blood was enough to kill a cow. I had surgery one week later. They cut open my liver and cleaned my blood. The surgeon told me that there was a time during the surgery where I was dead. I know that it was God’s power that allowed me to regain consciousness. It took a couple months to recover and even now I still feel the effect of that poison.

But what I believe is that when Jesus takes care of us, many men can do many things to us but God can always keep us safe. It brings me great joy to know that as believers we will never be alone and God’s promises are always true for us. I’m very blessed to see this in my own life. God promises to be with the believer who’s not afraid and not ashamed to proclaim the gospel.


Gunadi (center) with two trainers
Gunadi sharing his story with LRI staff

Please pray with us for Gunadi and other persecuted brothers and sisters in his region.

  • Pray that they would be rescued from wicked men (Romans 15:31). 
  • Pray that they would “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord . . . but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8). 
  • Pray that their proclamation of God’s Word would bear much fruit and that their joy in the gospel would grow each day.

* His name has been changed to protect his identity.

COVID-19 Cannot Bind the Word of God

COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees. Even so, we’re thankful that even in tremendous suffering and uncertainty, God is faithful and will do His work through His Word. 

Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy while in prison. He knew suffering, and yet he could write, “. . . I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8–9, ESV). That is our great hope as believers! And that is what we are witnessing around the world.

Below you’ll find a sampling of how God’s Word is going forth in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. As you read, would you please pray for our dear partners to have deep joy in the Lord and a fruitful season of ministry? 


Ecuador

 

When the COVID-19 crisis started to intensify, two trainers, Oscar and Alexander, found themselves quarantined in the house of another trainer, Clever (pictured above), in a city seven hours by car away from their families and church. God used their two weeks together to deepen friendships and further ministry. These three trainers experimented with training and preaching over Facebook Live and have since led several trainings over social media for church members and others in their community. One Facebook commenter shared at the end of the training in Ruth:

God has taught me that in spite of our circumstances, He has control of all things. And he has taught me that we are the people who should be encouraging others without losing hope because MY REDEEMER LIVES!


South Africa

 

From a partner who taught with Jeff Gage (pictured above) in South Africa: “Shepherds School at our church is a two-year course in which we work through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Using the Dig and Discover tools, students are equipped to read, study, apply, and disciple others. We meet once each month for four hours in a workshop setting. Since we are under a strict lockdown in South Africa and unable to gather, we all joined in a Zoom meeting while I taught from home. We interacted about the students’ assignments from last month, and filled out our understanding of Biblical theology. While some of the workshop dynamic was lost by not being able to work in small groups, the experience was positive and beneficial for all.”


Latin American Mentor Trainers

 

Patricio Paredes, LRI’s regional director for Latin America, and the mentor trainers from that region, meet weekly to study the book of Daniel and sharpen each other as trainers. A hopeful outcome of this group is that new and strengthened relationships will result in expanding our training into new Latin American countries. One trainer commented, “I’m convinced amazing things are coming!”


A Security-Sensitive Country in Asia

A core group of forty pastors meet weekly over video to go through Hebrews, taking turns to teach a passage they have prepared using LRI’s principles. In turn, these forty train about forty other groups (each ranging from about ten to twenty participants) in what they have learned, reaching somewhere between 400 and 800. 


A Security-Sensitive Country in Central Asia

One mentor trainer from Central Asia leads an online training with eleven preachers, mainly from his church. Another more experienced trainer sits in on the training to share feedback. While training over the internet has its disadvantages and will never equal face-to-face training, the trainer and his preaching team are growing in their handling of God’s Word.


Three Countries in South Asia

God’s Word is impacting people in three South Asian countries in which we work in a variety of ways. Several pastors are recording audio messages or preaching every day on Facebook. One brother is preparing a study in 2 Corinthians for the next mentor trainer workshop that will take place when the shelter-in-place order is lifted. Several pastors (including the two brothers pictured), are meeting physical needs in their community and calling other pastors from their training groups for prayer and mutual encouragement. 


United States

 

After experiencing two of our workshops, Pastor Marty Paparo (pictured above), from a training group in North Florida, decided to lead the people in his Wednesday night Bible study through the book of Ruth using the Dig and Discover principles. After the coronavirus situation led them to stop meeting in person, they’ve continued their interactive study of Ruth online over video. Pastor Marty commented that it’s so great, rather than simply spoon-feeding people week after week, to equip them to read and understand the Bible for themselves.


Pray with us

Pray with us for God’s Word to continue to go forth in power to bring many to faith during these days of crisis. Also pray that God would use this time to strengthen a global movement of His Word by raising up gifted trainers and preachers to equip His saints for the work of Word ministry.

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you…” (2 Thessalonians 3:1, ESV)

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