It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart … For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.
One of the things my grandfather used to say as I bade him farewell was “I’ll be thinking away about you.” It always struck me as a strange thing to say. But by it he meant, “I care about how you are. I’m under the burden of what you’re doing. I’m interested in where you’re going.”
Paul used similar phraseology when he wrote words like “feel,” “heart,” “yearn,” and “affection” to the Philippian church. Phronein, which means “to think,” is translated in the ESV as “to feel” because this verb is expressive not simply of a mental focus but also of a sympathetic interest and genuine concern. Paul was telling the Philippians that though he was physically separated from them, they were very dear to him and remained in his thoughts and prayers. He was “thinking away” about them.
Paul—that man who had once been consumed by a hatred for Jesus’ followers—came to have this affection because Jesus gave it to him. He and his fellow believers were now bound together by God’s amazing love toward them. The standard and source of his affection was none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. As Bishop Lightfoot wrote, Paul’s “pulse beats with the pulse of Christ; his heart throbs with the heart of Christ.”
Because the Philippian believers were such an important part of Paul’s life, his love for them moved him to prayer, for Paul understood that prayer is one of the key expressions of love. His love was not revealed in a cozy sentimentalism or in fine-sounding words. Instead, he prayed for his friends, and he did so daily.
When “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5), we will find ourselves immediately drawn to others who love in the same way. It is the love of family life, for we share the same Father—and one of the fundamental ways in which we will express that love is to pray.
Do you love your children? Pray for them. Do you love your church? Pray for them. As Christ’s love expands your heart and flows through you, the affection you have for those you hold dear will move you to prayer. Be “thinking away” about those you love—and be “praying away” for them too!
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.