Paul’s letter to the Philippians is sometimes described as a love letter. Even these first few verses make it abundantly clear why. Paul and the Philippians enjoy a tremendous bond of Christian friendship, where each party holds the other in affection, love, and support. For while it was traditional in the ancient world to begin a letter with section of “thanksgiving,” this one overflows with Paul’s gratitude for their support, both when he was among them and now that he is apart and suffering in prison.
But these verses also illumine for us part of the nature of prayer. There are two elements in particular that deserve our attention. First, thanksgiving is at the heart of prayer and it is a tremendously powerful thing. Paul begins this section of his letter with this simple but profound statement: “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like to start our letters like this. Or to start our conversations. Try it. Seriously. The next time you have a significant conversation with a friend, start by telling the other person that every time you think of her, you give God thanks for her friendship and support. Or the next time you have a significant meeting at work, start by telling the whole group why you are grateful to work with them. Or the next time you sit down with your family, turn to each one and say what you are grateful for about each one. We would love to hear some of the testimonies that comes from this challenge.