I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. May grace (God’s unmerited favor and blessing) be with you.
Those of us who live in the developed world have a lot. Even our fellow countrymen who are disenfranchised and in need have more than many who live in the undeveloped world. Even so, it is very easy to think of our physical needs in the context of the society around us. We may judge our sad state not by whether we have all that we need but by whether we have as much as our neighbor. I am guilty of the one-track prayer which focuses on all of the boxes in my life that God has yet to check, sometimes a prayer of need but often more a prayer of pity. It is in those times that God reminds me what it really means to be in need and how my prayers can be more effective and less selfish.
Paul’s request that the Church remember his imprisonment is not merely a call for them to recognize his physical state. His request is for them to do something on his behalf, which is to pray. This specific group was under the type of societal pressure that is squeezing the Church today, which is the pressure to submit and compromise in accepting sin. Suffice it to say, they had their own problems and concerns. We likely would not have blamed any member of that church for focusing his or her prayers on the individual’s or the body’s specific needs. However, they still had their freedom; they were not in chains as Paul was. He endured a greater suffering, and it was for them to lift him up in prayer as a priority.
Many of us have never known and might never know what it is like to truly be persecuted for our faith. We likely have not lost property, family or liberty simply because we follow Jesus Christ. This may seem to us like something other Christians endure, but that does not happen here. The truth is that the persecution of any member of the body is the persecution of the entire body. We are called not to pray just for those we know or for ourselves, but we are called to pray for the whole Church. Specifically, let us remember those who are suffering greatly right now for our same holy cause. Father, give us a renewed selflessness in prayer that we would lift up those we do not even know who are suffering for your name’s sake.