—Philemon 4-7 (NASB)
Why is it that 98.7% of my personal prayer lists are either for the needs of others or for my own needs? (The remaining percentage is an embarrassingly minimal scattering of praise and acknowledgment of God.) I’m guessing that those without pressing needs, those who appear to already have solid walks in Christ, don’t make my prayer list because I don’t think they need prayer. But Paul provides an insight into how the body of Christ is strengthened, how fellowship extends beyond just physical contact: Prayer and praise for the strength, faith and effectiveness of the spiritually strong and mature.
Further, Paul prays for the multiplied effectiveness of others’ walk: “and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective…” Not just praising God for the love and faith already exhibited, Paul prays for an even greater impact to come. And it’s interesting that Paul derives a personal benefit — “I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love” — in the further adventures of a life going well in Christ: “because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” Paul’s prayer for the spiritually mature strengthens him personally, strengthens the church at large, and empowers the continuing, positive work of Christ for all.
Perhaps one of the critical steps toward true fellowship is prayer not just for the “needy” but for the “empowered” as well. Remind me, Lord, to lift up EVERYONE in prayer, not just those with pressing immediate needs, but those engaged in the eternal work through your body, that they may continue in your strength and power.†††