I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Philemon 4–7)
As we continue our short tour through the short letter of Philemon, we get to what is known as the ‘thanksgiving’. Ancient Roman letters normally followed the pattern of having a thanksgiving after listing the recipients and this is no exception. From this brief prayer we can learn something of the heart of Paul’s concerns, something we might like to imitate in our own prayers.
The first point is a simple one: Paul clearly regularly prays for a wide number of people and situations. He does not think prayer is a waste of time, but rather the engine room of his ministry.
Secondly, his prayers are missional. He prays that Philemon may be effective as he shares his faith. His prayers are for the strengthening of the church and the flowering of faith in individuals.
Finally, he finds encouragement in hearing about the faith of others and rejoices when he hears about Philemon’s “faith toward the Lord Jesus”. He derives joy and comfort from Philemon’s love, and the news that the saints have been refreshed.
So what might we learn from this? Whilst we often pray for people’s circumstances (often their health) we would do well to also pray for other people’s faith too. Faith is not static, but is something which grows. Perhaps when you pray for someone, you might also pray for their faith.