“I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” Philemon 1:4-7
Paul, assisted by Timothy, wrote a brief, personal letter to Philemon “our beloved brother and fellow worker.” Over the years, this brief epistle has been a source of conflict and confusion. The subject of the letter has to do with the return of an escaped slave, Onesimus, to his rightful owner, Philemon. From a human perspective it appears that Paul is perpetuating an injustice, not making it right. Short as it is, Philemon has never been an easy read.
The Roman world was filled with slaves, and as far as Roman Law was concerned, a born-again slave was no different from one who had never heard The Gospel. The rights of Philemon’s ownership were not invalidated by the invasion of The Spirit into the life of Onesimus. Under Roman Law an escaped slave was a fugitive from justice, not a victim of injustice.
After Paul led Onesimus to a saving knowledge of Jesus, he encouraged him to go home and make things right with his master, Philemon. Though Onesimus was still a slave, in the eyes of the law, he was also Paul’s brother, in the eyes of God. Paul leveraged the brotherly love that existed between himself and Philemon, to prepare the master’s heart to put out the welcome mat for his slave, not the whipping post.
In a world of electronic mail, instant messaging, Facebook posts, and tortuously slow snail mail, contemporary culture may be in the death throes of genuine communication. Thel current phenomenon of two friends walking down the street with their eyes glued to their Smart-Phones make them look like fools. A restaurant table filled with patrons posting pics of their food while ignoring the people around them reveals a cultural wasteland, not an image of improved communication. But I digress.
Paul reminded Philemon, “I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,” Paul had no access to E-Mail, but he made abundant use of KNEE-Mail. Communication without intercession is man’s idea, not God’s idea. To be clear, it is never a good idea. Before you hit SEND, take a KNEE.
Sharing a prayerless piece of one’s mind is not improved by speed. The faster a slap in the face remark is sent doesn’t soften the blow. It only hardens the heart of the one who receives it. Hitting “Delete” before “Send” is a huge improvement over prayerless communication.
Note to self: Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you have to express it. Reading and responding to every foolish Facebook post is a fool’s way to share wisdom. It is like throwing rocks at every barking dog while walking to town. Unbridled comments result in an aching arm, more barking dogs, a town with a lot of broken windows, but with very little communication. Stop throwing. Start praying.
Paul’s letter was put on a slow boat, and delivered to Philemon in the hands of an unlikely messenger. Before, during and after the writing of the letter, Paul prayed for Philemon, “making mention of you in my prayers.”
Without the benefit of E-Mail, Paul invested his time in KNEE-mail. He thanked God for Philemon, and prayed for him to receive his letter with open hands and a tender heart.
Prayer calls on The Father to mend a breech between two brothers. The Father created the relationship between brothers. He is able to mend it when brothers mention one another to The Father in prayer. The Mention begins the mending, and starts with thanking God for a brother, not criticizing him.
Much has been made of the covenant relationship that exists between God and a husband and wife. Christian marriage is not a contract between two independent people. Marriage is a covenant between two people who are dependent upon God for His direction, protection and correction. They choose to join together, but they mutually choose to live under the eyes of God, and under the authority of God. Christian marriage is not a 50-50 contract between two independent people. It is a 100% absolute surrender of two people, choosing to be totally dependent upon God. Big difference.
The covenant relationship, between two Christian brothers, is no less powerful. Brothers do not exist because they have the right to live, but because they share a common father. In the same way, Christian brothers created by The Father are bonded to Him and to one another.
Paul thanked God for his brother, Philemon. He interceded for him to hear Paul’s heart, not just read his words, when he received his letter from the hands of their common brother, Onesimus.
Knee-mail is the lost art of Christian communication. Intercession for one another within the family of God is certainly not over-done. Sad but true, it is often under-utilized. Prayer begins the bonding of brothers by thanking God for one another, and leads to interceding for each other.
Thanking God for brothers that may not agree with us is a key component to authentic intercession. Gratitude for one another avoids having an attitude towards one another. Intercessors do not “PRAY AT” one another. God’s purpose for intercession is for brothers to “PRAY FOR” each other.
Paul’s letter gives a glimpse into God’s method for changing a culture, one life at a time. The Mention of Philemon in prayer prepared the heart of the one who had been wronged to make things right in the life of Onesimus. Intercession is the heartbeat of the next Great Awakening. The Mention begins with thanksgiving and leads to intercession. The next Great Awakening is a prayer away. Thanksgiving and intercession begins with you. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!