Learning from Paul’s Letter to Philemon: thanksgiving and prayer
Hey there, sorry to have left you hanging! The events of my life overtook me! So a while back, I introduced you to Paul’s letter to Philemon. In that blog, I said we had plenty of time to reflect on this short letter. Now we have less time but yes, it’s still a short book, so there is still no need to rush.
It’s probably best to start by re-reading the first post in this series – Learning from Paul’s Letter to Philemon: all in this together. I did! It’s a great introduction to this personal letter from Paul to Philemon.
This next section is entitled ‘Thanksgiving and Prayer’ in my Bible. In recent years, Paul has been given a bad press. He’s seen by some as prescriptive and judgemental. His words have been used to justify prejudice and exploitation of minority groups – even slavery, as we will see in this letter! However, it depends where you look, I guess, what you focus on. We have to remember that Paul was writing in a particular context very different to our own. And Paul talks A LOT about thanksgiving and prayer. Paul is much more positive and upbeat than some would have us believe.
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:4-7
Who do you remember in your prayers? Do you even take time to pray for others? I have to admit I am by nature a ‘doer’. I’m not the best at taking time to remember anyone or anything. This is about carving out a time to reflect, giving yourself the space to remember those who are an encouragement to you in your faith. Through the years of my journey of faith, I can think of so many who have supported and challenged and encouraged me along the way. There are so many individuals I can give thanks to God for: some I have lost touch with and have no idea what to pray for specifically but God knows and as I remember them and bring them before Him, He can touch their lives.
Paul is giving thanks for Philemon because of his love and faith. As I think about those people who have encouraged me in my faith, it is their love and faith that shine bright. This journey all comes down to love and faith: our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Jesus knew that when he commanded his followers to love God and love others as they love themselves. We complicate our faith far too often. How about we focus on love and faith and see where that takes us?
In my previous blog, we touched on this partnership in the faith that Paul mentions here – we are all in this together, we are all on the same team. As we focus on what unites us rather than what divides us, we come together in an appreciation of all that we share as children of God. It’s a focus on gratitude for all that God is and has done and has given us that will strengthen our influence in the world.
And this last sentence that we’re reading today – wow, I love it! Philemon is a rich man, a successful man, an influential man – and yet what does Paul focus on here? His love for others. The way that he treats other people. There’s something about this man Philemon which refreshes the hearts of God’s people. I would like to have met this guy! What a gift that is! He’s uplifting and inspirational. He cheers the hearts of those he meets. Our world could do with more individuals like Philemon, don’t you think? Imagine if people came to think of us in this way, because every time they encountered us, they walked away with a smile on their face and a warm heart. That’s something for us to aspire to right there.
I feel I need to write a short checklist for me to take away today – an action plan for the ‘doer’ in me. Perhaps it will help you too.
- take ten minutes today to sit in a sunny spot with a cup of tea and reflect on all those who have have encouraged in my faith over the years and are encouraging me now. I may write a list, because that’s what I do!
- focus on love and faith: rather vague for an action point, I know. I might find some card and write LOVE AND FAITH in coloured pens on various size pieces of card to put in my purse, on my fridge etc to be a constant reminder that this is where my focus should lie.
- establish a gratitude practice. I should say ‘re-establish a gratitude practice’ as I’ve done it before and let it slip. For me, this is about taking time when I get into bed at the end of the day to remember all the good things in the day that I have to be grateful to God for – however small.
- warm some hearts! Be an uplifter in the encounters I have today.
So what are we waiting for?