What is the secret of Paul’s Christ-dominated attitude? He reveals the source in verse 19: ‘I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.’ When he asks the Philippians for their prayers, he is not devising a new feature in his support base. Rather he is stating that what preserved him in the past would continue to keep him in the future. Paul was dependent on the prayers of other Christians and on the Holy Spirit.
Paul was facing a crisis. His trial has taken place and he is now awaiting the verdict. Yet he bases his hopes of deliverance not on the arguments he made in court but on the prayers of his friends. He was confident that their prayers, under God’s hand, would influence the decision of the emperor regarding the sentence.
Paul was a firm believer in the sovereignty of God. Yet he was not a fatalist. He recognised that God used specific means in bringing about his purposes, and one of these means is intercessory prayer. We must never assume that a blessing will come without prayer.
Paul had also tasted success in the gospel even although he was physically curtailed by his chains. Yet he knew that the success could only continue if prayer was maintained. He wanted the prayers of the Philippians more than anything else they could do for him. Perhaps his mind wandered over some of these hardened soldiers who had been converted, and he recalled what prayer had achieved.
Paul also knew the power of the Scriptures to give comfort. In verse 19 he quotes from the Septuagint version of Job 13:16: ‘He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.’ It looks as if Paul had been meditating on Job’s difficult circumstances in which some of the Lord’s people, these miserable counsellors, had maligned him in a manner similar to how some preachers in Rome had attacked Paul. The Scriptures assured him that his circumstances were the same as the people of God in all ages.
Yet although Paul knew the sovereignty of God in his life, was tasting ongoing success in the spread of the gospel, and was experiencing the comfort of the Scriptures, he still needed the intercessory prayers of the Philippian church, as well as the prayers of others.