“According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20
Paul’s statement is at one and the same time a declaration and a definition of prayer. Prayer is an expression of his earnest expectation of being heard, and an absolute assurance of his deliverance by the hand of Sovereign God.
Paul’s prayer reveals his greatest fear, “that I will not be put to shame in anything.” This is a theme that runs through the letters of Paul. This was no modest gesture of false piety. Paul knew his limitations. It made him a prayer warrior, not a battlefield deserter.
There is a huge difference between going A.W.O.L and having H.O.P.E. Absent With Out Leave is a poor substitute for Having One’s Perspective Elevated. Prayerlessness leads to one. Prayerfulness leads to the other. Choose wisely.
When a sudden crisis arose, or his prolonged imprisonment was extended, Paul found himself stretched to the breaking point. Paul didn’t react in panic. He responded in prayer. The Spirit of Jesus Christ covered the gap between Paul’s fear, and his faith with God’s grace.
Note to self: Prayer only does this EVERY TIME. When you feel your faith being stretched, by the present crisis or a prolonged one, don’t run. Bend your knees, and pray for God’s grace.
Paul feared being put to shame, not because God’s grace was insufficient, but because his pride was to great to ask for His help. Prayerless people are prideful people. They are not helpless people. They are just too proud to admit they are at the end of their rope, and in danger of dangling at the end of a noose woven by their own prayerless and prideful hands.
Going to sleep, chained to a Roman guard, and waking up in the same prison, had to be a wearisome experience for Paul. Some crises comes swift and fast, and leave the way they came. Other crises linger, and over time slowly drain a faithful prayer warrior’s confidence and courage.
Paul prayed for boldness. He didn’t want to dishonor a life-time of faithfulness with a moment of fearfulness. Prayer was his shield from the flaming arrows of the evil one. When he felt the burn of enemy fire, Paul didn’t run in fear. He stood firm and raised the shield of faith, and leaned close towards the protective Presence of The Champion.
Some live long. Others live right. Some die well. Others die in disgrace. Paul did not have a death wish. He didn’t embrace martyrdom like a fanatical jihadist. He was no terrorist seeking to bring down Roman rule.
Paul was a prayer warrior, interceding for the next generation of believers. He sensed their eyes upon him, and their prayer being lifted up to God on his behalf. His failure to stand firm in the face of this time of testing would have disastrous consequences.
There was more at stake than Paul’s own personal survival of the crisis at hand. If he failed this test of his faith, his letters to the churches would have his hand-prints on them, but they would lose the seal of The Spirit’s authenticity.
The Spirit lives to exalt Christ. This is His primary mission. Paul’s breakthrough came when he understood that he was expendable, not essential.
When Paul came to the point of absolute surrender, he placed his will into the hands of The Spirit. Through prayer, he offered his life or his death as instruments to exalt Christ in the eyes of those who looked to him for leadership.
Rather than bemoan his crisis to gain sympathy, Paul prayed for boldness to exalt Christ through it. He had come to the point that he no longer desired to pass the test, or even survive it, if Christ was not exalted.
Bold praying takes the focus off of one’s own navel, and magnifies the Son of God. Stop collecting lint. Start exalting Christ. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Dr. Gary and Dana L. Miller
For over 40 years, Gary and Dana Miller have invested their lives in the pastoral ministry of churches in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Georgia. Gary and Dana believe the hope of the world is the local church, and the strength of the church is sustained by praying people.
They have taught extensively on the role of prayer in spiritual awakening, counseled people to build strong marriages by equipping husbands and wives to pray together and have ministered internationally in Hong Kong, Japan, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Switzerland through their TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Prayer Conferences.
Gary and Dana live in Fort Worth, Texas and have been married for 40 years. They are parents of two grown daughters, Ashley and Allyson.