In developing countries, collecting lifesustaining drinking water strains the bodies of the women and children who retrieve and carry the water. Spinal and neck damage is often widespread. To solve this problem, entrepreneurs began designing and distributing wheel-shaped water containers that allow people to move water without injury.
In Galatians, Paul instructs the church: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2). In today’s passage from Philippians, he gives us a real-life example of this burden bearing. Paul begins by expressing his love for the Philippian believers, his partners in the gospel. Though some might think of Paul as the New Testament’s tough and brainy theologian, these verses (vv. 3–8) reveal his tender affection.
Having begun to ease their burden by reaffirming his love, Paul went on to tell the believers exactly what he is praying for them: love, discernment, purity, fruitfulness, and God’s glory. This is Paul’s regular practice. He also tells the Ephesians (Eph. 1:15–23), the Colossians (Col. 1:9–14), and the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 1:11–12) the substance of his intercession for them. In this way, he reminds the churches that their specific burdens are not forgotten, and he encourages them to look expectantly for God’s help.
The burden-bearing is not one-sided. Paul reinforces their mutual love by sharing his own burdens and affirming the essential part that he believes the prayers of the Philippians will play in his release from prison. The great apostle depended on these prayers of intercession. Like those inventors who create ergonomic water vessels, we take up one another’s burdens in prayer, lending each other a hand to bring them to the Lord.