- The Greeting (1:1-2)
- Prayer as Thanksgiving (1:3-8)
- Thanksgiving—to God for His People (1:3-4)
- Basis for Thanksgiving—The Past (1:5)
- Basis for Thanksgiving—The Future (1:6)
- Basis for Confidence and Thanksgiving (1:7-8)
- Prayer as Petition (1:9-11)
In grammar school I was taught some rudimentary rules about writing letters: that there are basically two types (personal/friendly and business); that one (business) has an inside address, while friendly letters do not; but that both begin and end the same way (with a greeting, such as "Dear Father," and a closing, "Your son, Gordon").
Letters in the Greco-Roman period had this pattern in reverse, with a threefold salutation at the beginning: "Gordon, to his father: Greetings." Very often the next item in the letter was a wish (sometimes a prayer) for the health or well-being of the recipient. Paul's letters, which follow this standard form, usually include a thanksgiving report and sometimes, as here, a prayer report (telling his recipients specifically how he prays for them). In contrast to most first-century letters, where (as in ours) these formal items were stereotyped, Paul tends to elaborate them; and in his hands they become distinctively Christian.