Last night, we gathered for our evening service and we did something that we don’t typically do for worship or a regular prayer service. We gathered for prayer and we read through the entire letter of Philippians with specific congregational prayers at the conclusion of each chapter. Not only was it a blessing to read through the entire letter of Philippians—it was an added joy to pray together as a church in a holistic manner.
We began with the reading of Philippians 1 by David Crowe, one of our elders, who then followed up with a prayer for church unity as he prayed through the emphasis of the first chapter. As David read and prayed through Philippians 1—he emphasized the point Paul was making in Philippians 1:27–28, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”
I read through Philippians 2, and then led the church in a prayer for the elders and their families. One of the joys of my life is serving with faithful elders who love the Lord and have a passion to serve our local church. It is likewise a joy to see how each one of my fellow elders have a driving focus on personal sanctification and a desire to see their families grow in holiness. I see this in their families, their wives, and their children. As I prayed, I quoted Paul’s words to the church at Philippi as he commended Timothy to them by saying:
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also (Phil. 2:19-24).
It was my desire to commend my fellow elders to the church publicly and to remind the church that we have a group of men who love them and desire to faithfully serve them in the gospel of Christ providing them with spiritual leadership and careful oversight. This too is my desire—to care for God’s sheep rather than just being a talking head in the pulpit.
Another elder, Buck Braswell, led the church in reading through Philippians 3 and a public prayer for the deacons of our church. He began by thanking God for the faithful men who serve our church in the office of deacon and how they meet the qualifications on 1 Timothy 3. Furthermore, he emphasized the fact that they have a desire to be faithful examples within the church. Just as Paul was urging the church at Philippi to walk in a manner that honors God in Philippians 3:17-20. This is not only essential for the elders, but also for those who serve the church in the office of deacon.
Finally, as a means of conclusion, I was able to lead the church in a reading of Philippians 4 followed by a prayer for our church’s unity as we were engaging in a time of business following our time in prayer. We were going to hear from the church in an official congregational vote to affirm the recommendation of our elders regarding a new pastoral candidate who will be coming on to serve alongside us. I led the church in praying for this candidate, his family, and our church as a whole as we engaged in this important decision. We asked for God’s will to be done and for the Lord to be honored.
It was a joy to pray and to read publicly the entire letter of Philippians together as a church. As elders, we have been exploring ways to pray together more as a church family with intentionality focused on praising God, instructing children in how to pray, and to lift up petitions to God on behalf of our entire church family. Last night was a blessing, and something that I would encourage you and your church to consider as well.