“I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel; but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.” Philemon 1:12-14
“Sending my very heart” indicates that Paul had a heart for prayer and a heart for doing what was right. When church leaders want to get their way, they are tempted to bring the heat to remove the obstacle in their path.
When Paul expressed his desire to get what he wanted, he gave away his heart. Bringing the heat from exerting personal effort and exercising the art of gentle persuasion may bring a good idea into reality, but miss God’s idea in the long run.
Paul set the example of a man who didn’t need to lead with his need to get what he wanted. His life was marked, by giving his heart away, not getting his way. He didn’t lead by compulsion, but by intercession.
Compulsion operates on “My Will.” Intercession has a heart for “Thy Will.” The process of intercession conforms “Free Will” to Thy Will.” Prayer is an investment of one’s time and one’s heart into a heart transplant in the life of another person. The Spirit’s surgery cannot be rushed, but it can be ushered in by intercession.
Paul refused to rationalize his need and use it as leverage over another person to get what he wanted. He was aged, imprisoned, and in need of comfort. Onesimus offered to him relief of his need, but Paul saw a danger in it.
If the service given to Paul by Onesiumus appeared to be theft on his part, in the eyes of Philiemon, it could cause a breech between two brothers, and disrupt the fellowship of the local church. An escaped slave was no small matter. The escape of Onesimus caused a loss of face for Philemon in the community, and constituted a substantial loss to him financially.
Rather than command Philemon to get on board with what God had done in the heart of Onesismus, Paul prayed for the master to have a change of heart towards his slave and receive him, as his new brother in Christ.
Praying begins by yielding one’s will to The Father’s will. This is how Jesus prayed. After hearing Jesus pray, His disciples said, “Teach us to pray.” Jesus began with two words, “Our Father.” All believing prayer begins by a child placing compete trust in a loving Father to do what is right for them. Prayer is not about getting what the child want. Prayer is all about the child getting on board with The Father’s will.
Again, Jesus modeled the purpose of prayer. He prayed until His will was conformed to His Father’s will. When Jesus prayed, He gave His heart away to God, and received The Father’s heart as His own. The heart of prayer is the matter of the heart. Jesus prayed, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” The purpose of prayer is for the Father to implant His heart into His children. Prayerless children are heartless indeed.
To know The Father’s will is one thing. To receive The Father’s will is quite another thing. Praying softens the heart and opens the hands of the prayer warrior to receive The Father’s will.
Intercession is the process by which a prayer warrior calls on The Spirit of Christ to develop the mind of Christ in the heart of another person. Paul prayed for Philemon, not because Paul needed a devotional exercise, but because Philemon needed a heart transplant only The Father could give.
Leaders without followers are not marching at the head of an army. They are only taking a walk by themselves. Shouting out orders to people who have no heart to follow will never launch a movement of God. Praying for potential followers to receive a new heart for The Father prepares the church to receive the next Great Awakening. Unless hearts are prepared to receive the change The Father is capable of bringing into a person’s life, new believers will be stiff armed in the parking lot, before they ever get to the pews. Prayer prepares the heart and improves the vision of the local church to have new hearts and open arms.
My wife and I assist our local church by serving on the front lines. I put out the Welcome Mat in the parking lot, meeting and greeting people as they arrive. She serves at the Welcome Desk in the entrance of the church, seating guests in the Worship Center.
Most churches would be well served to give some fresh attention to the way they meet, seat and greet guests. Like fresh paint, hospitality covers a great deal of sin. Effective hospitality begins by showing up before guests arrive, and involves meeting, greeting and seating them before there is any hope at connecting with them. Ninety percent of success in connecting people to a local church hinges on the first ten minutes they spend on the parking lot. But I digress.
Philemon was being asked by Paul to see the change The Father had made in Onesimus. He was no longer a slave, but a saint. He was Paul’s child, and Philemon’s brother. Paul interceded for Philemon to have a change of heart towards a man that had wronged him. Prayer softens a hurting heart to receive healing, and prayer gives courage to risk being hurt again.
A great deal was at stake in the life of Onesimus and the local church. The Father is grieved when His children do not value what He has done in giving a person new life in Christ and adopting them into His family.
Onesimus was a real slave, but his life also serves as a poster child for what happens when The Father unleashes a Great Awakening. Relationships get cleaned up with The Father and get real messy with His children, all at the same time.
A hardened heart only leads to a stiffened arm. A softened heart leads to open arms. This only happens when The Father’s children pray for one another to love one another, to forgive one another, and welcome one another with open arms. When they pray for one another His children send each other His heart. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!