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Philemon 1:21-22 Prayer is Action

Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This is the ninth lesson in a series of lessons on the Book of Philemon. In this lesson I’m going to look at verses 21 and 22 and talk about the concept of prayer being action.

Watch the video or scroll down to read a transcript.

Transcript:

Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This is the ninth lesson in a series of lessons on the book of Philemon. In this lesson, I’m going to look at verses 21 and 22 and talk about the concept of prayer being action. 

It’s easy to fall into the mindset of thinking that when we pray, we’re merely asking God to do something. Obviously, there’s truth to that. However, there’s also a concept in the Bible that when we pray, we are actually taking action. When we pray for someone, there is a sense in which we are with that person, side by side, helping them do whatever it is they are engaged in. 

What I’m going to do in this lesson is look at several verses in the New Testament that teach that concept. Then we’ll read Philemon and see how that concept is reflected in the book of Philemon. Let’s get started with Romans 15. This is verse 30. 

Rom. 15:30   Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,

This is Paul. He was writing to the Romans. Notice he said, “strive together with me in your prayers”. When Paul wrote “strive together”, he wasn’t merely asking the Romans to ask God to do something for him. Paul was asking the Romans to strive together with him. It was as if the Romans, by praying for Paul, could stand with Paul, side by side, and strive together with Paul in whatever Paul was engaged in. We see something similar in 2 Corinthians.

2Cor. 1:11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

Here, Paul wrote to the Corinthians about helping Paul and his companions through prayer. Again, there’s this idea that when the Corinthians prayed for Paul and his companions, they were not merely asking God to do something. They were helping them as if they were side by side helping them.

Col. 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. 

Paul wrote to the Colossians that Epaphras was praying for them. But notice the way he phrased it. He said that Epaphras was laboring earnestly for them in his prayers. Think about the concept of laboring earnestly. Laboring is more than merely asking God to do something. Laboring implies effort and work. Again, it was as if Epaphras, in praying for the Colossians, was with the Colossians, shoulder to shoulder, laboring with them.

We see in these verses the concept that prayer is not just asking God to do something. Obviously, when we pray, that is part of what we do. However, when we pray, we can also stand with other people side by side, and help them endure and persevere through whatever it is they’re facing. 

Now, let’s see how this might be reflected in the book of Philemon. I’ll start at verse one just for some context.

Philemon 1:1  Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy the brother, to Philemon, the beloved and our fellow-worker, 2 and to Apphia the sister, and to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the assembly in your house. 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This letter was written by Paul and Timothy, and it was written to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the assembly in their house. Then Paul wrote the following.

Philemon 1:4  I always give thanks to my God, making mention of you during my prayers,  5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 so that the fellowship of your faith might be effective in the knowledge of every good which is in us for Christ.

We see here in verse four Paul said he was making mention of Philemon during his prayers. At this point, Paul merely said he was praying for Philemon. 

As I mentioned in earlier lessons, the main idea in Philemon is that Paul wrote to Philemon asking him to give grace and mercy to Onesimus. Then we get to the end of the book. Paul started to wrap up his letter, and he wrote the following.

Philemon 1:21  Being confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do more than I say. 22 Moreover, at the same time, prepare also a guest room for me, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you.

Paul was in prison when he wrote this. He was hoping to be released, and he asked Philemon to pray to that end. But notice how Paul phrased this. He wrote, “I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you.” 

Paul was asking Philemon to ask God to release Paul from prison. But in light of what Paul wrote elsewhere in the New Testament about prayer, we can also see that Paul may have been thinking that he needed Philemon to labor with Paul as Paul was in prison and had to endure the hardships of prison. And as Philemon prayed for Paul, Philemon’s prayers could be a way of taking action to get Paul released from prison. 

As I said earlier, it’s very easy to fall into the mindset of thinking that when we pray, we’re merely asking God to act. What we see in these verses in the New Testament is this concept that when we pray, we are taking action. We can see that when Philemon prayed for Paul, there was an opportunity for Philemon to not only ask God to release Paul from prison, but also to take action, pray for Paul, and help Paul endure the hardships of prison life, and also to pray and take action that would work towards Paul’s release from prison. 

With that in mind, let’s think about two questions. First, what is one way that people can use prayer to help you? What are you dealing with in your life that people could pray for you, and in so doing, come alongside you, stand side by side, and help you persevere and endure whatever it is you’re working on? 

Second, what is one way that you can use prayer to help others? What are some situations you are aware of that you can pray for someone and, through your prayers, stand with them, shoulder to shoulder, help them endure the hardships that they’re going through, and help them work towards the objective that they’re trying to achieve? As we see in these verses in the New Testament, when we pray, we are not merely asking God, we are also taking action ourselves. When we pray for people, we can be with them, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, and help them achieve the goal that they’re working towards. 

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Scripture quotations from Philemon taken from a translation by Bible Mountain.

“All other Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)