I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy… Philippians 1:3-4
I can’t imagine that Paul found all the people of the Philippian church to be delightful and easy to get along with people. That’s just not the way of human nature. There are some people we get along with and some that we don’t. Some we naturally gravitate towards and others we would rather avoid. Some people we “get” or just seem to click with. Others, well, we never seem to be on the same page.
And yet, here in his letter to the Philippians Paul states that when he remembers them, when he prays for them, he always prays with joy. Not just when he prays for some of them but in all his prays for all of them.
Honestly, that’s not my inclination. I tend to be thankful for the people who do good things for me, who compliment me, who confirm my predispositions. But for the difficult people—for the ones I just don’t get—if I am praying for them it’s a request. Usually a petition that they would be more like me.
Oh, I don’t say it just like that. But it’s the underlying reality. What makes us believe that people would be more enjoyable, more tolerable, more likable, if they thought like us, talked like us, laughed at our jokes, or held our identical values?
I am learning that while I love people as best as I know how and while I desire to show them dignity as God’s creation, I don’t often appreciate them. I don’t often value them as God does. At least not the ones who don’t serve my needs and encourage my interests.
I want to value people—all of them—as Paul did. I want to become a person who is grateful for each and everyone. Even the annoying ones!
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 1 Thessalonians 1:2
In Paul’s letters to the churches, one thing comes shining through time and time again. Paul had a deep love for people. All people. Those who supported him and those who opposed. Those who were easy to get along with, and those that were not so easy.
And I’m beginning to think it comes from his willingness to pray and thank God for them. All of them.
When I pray for people it is usually to make a request either on their behalf, or as I mentioned above, a prayer that they would change. Rarely do I take time to simply thank God for people. In fact, I’m realizing that the only people I thank God for on a daily basis are my wife and my kids. And sometimes I’m not even sure about the kids!
Who can I thank God for today?
Who can I remember today and pray for them with joy?