The Deep Need for Interconnectedness
Phil. 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Here, again, we find the Apostle Paul in prayer, and in this prayer we hear a mix of praise and prayer. Just because the dear believers in Philippi are excelling in their ministry and service doesn’t mean that he stops praying for them.
Paul recognizes the importance of on-going prayer in the fellowship of the believers and this is revealed to us in verse five. He sees the interconnectedness of the Philippians who are “sharing” with him while he is ministering in prison. The Greek word here for “sharing” is “koinonia” which we often translate as fellowship. The word has incredible depth as we think about the the on-going, day in and day out conversing, table-sharing hospitality of fellowshipping together. Chrysostom interprets Paul’s words,“The fact that you have been put in charge of one city,” he says, “does not mean that you care for that one alone, but you do everything so as to become partakers of my labors wherever I am. It is as though you are with me everywhere as my coworkers and companions in preaching.” Whether Paul is in prison in Rome or speaking to the Church leadership in Jerusalem, he is interconnected with his co-laborers back in Philippi, those gathered at Lydia’s house, and they continue to partner with him in his ministry.
They partner with him not only in prayer, but in their own spiritual development. Their spiritual growth brings strength to the aging Apostle. He commends them for growing in Christ. He does not flatter them with fancy words, but instead, is genuine in commending or praising them by stating the truth, without exaggeration. He needs real and genuine partners who are interconnected with him in his ministry. For this to happen he recognizes that he must pray for love, discernment, purity of life and righteousness. The goal becomes a people of God, interconnected, even when living great distances from one another that leads to the glory and praise of God. God’s holy people in “koinonia” with one another, reflecting the very “koinonia” found in the Trinity and this brings glory to God.
Even before the days of social networking, God was uniting his children in a social network of prayer. This network is much more powerful than the one we find these days on the internet. While the internet may be useful to help us know how to pray for one another, the interconnectedness of disciples following God together is amazing.
Gregory of Nazianzus, a great theologian in the 4th century, had a mother that knew how to pray. Her interconnectedness with her son led to her to awaken in the middle of the night and realize the deep need to pray for him. He was out on a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in the midst of a storm and thought he was going to die. As he was struggling, she was praying. He and the entire crew were eventually saved and when he returned home they discovered it was at one and the same time that all of this was happening.
We’ve heard these kinds of stories on numerous occasions for there is something that happens that connects us to one another in prayer. Paul knew that this was important and he recognized the interconnectedness of his relationship with the believers in Philippi. While they lived a long distance from one another they were sharing together in ministry.
We are also called to share together, or fellowship together in God’s work here on earth. We are interconnected — just as last evening I got a text message from a leader of another denomination asking me to pray for a particular meeting. We are interconnected! Or when I get a message that someone has been praying for me and it has been a particularly difficult time.
Paul lived and moved in this fellowship of fellow believers. Our calling is also to engage in the hospitality of fellowship found among our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world. We are quite literally sisters and brothers and therefore we must embrace that relationship and live into it responsibly. We are created with the deep need to be connected.
Lord, please help me to be attentive to the needs of those with whom I am connected and bring their requests before you. Amen.