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Joyful Praying

Philemon 1:4-5
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. (NIVUK)

Christians ought to pray for each other (James 5:16).  Paul's captivity allowed him even more time, and God used his prayers, and those of fellow Christian prisoners like Epaphras (Colossians 4:12) in the upbuilding of churches and people.  In our age of activism and power politics, even in the church, prayer is often devalued as less important than 'doing things'.  Sometimes, the Lord has to slow us down so that we can get our priorities right (Luke 10:42).

Paul’s descriptions of his own prayer life are great examples to us.  As he talked with the Lord, Paul allowed the Holy Spirit to bring to his mind and heart those people who needed divine intervention.  In ways we cannot understand, God responds to the prayers of people who love others for Christ’s sake (Philippians 1:19).  In that way we are working with God as He works in other people (Romans 15:30).

Praying is not just about asking God to act; it is also to thank Him for what He has already done (2 Timothy 1:3).  Paul's gratitude, when praying for Philemon, was based on two ways in which God had been at work in his life: Philemon had come to believe in Jesus and was growing in his ability to trust Him; also, Philemon had a reputation for loving other Christians - putting the needs of a wide variety of believers above his own and serving them.  That was the evidence of the sovereign work of God in Philemon's life.

So why did Paul pray for this man who has such a dynamic relationship with God?  We can all slip back because nobody can cruise on yesterday's spiritual momentum (Ezekiel 33:12-13); we all need to be brought back to repentance and restored in relationship to the Lord when we fall (Ezekiel 33:14-16).  We all need to be sustained in our faith and ministry, through the prayers of others (Ephesians 6:19).  It is as important to pray for those who are following Christ well, as to intercede for those who have turned off the narrow path.  So, today, why not devote some time to thanking God for those who are apparently spiritually fit, because they can also slip out of the race.  Pray with joy, but also with earnestness, that they will keep pressing on with Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).  Join a Christian prayer group at work as well as at church: those on the 'front line' need the best spiritual supply chain.

Oh Lord who answers prayer. Thank You for Your saving and sustaining grace, and for all those I know who have chosen to receive grace from Jesus. Forgive me when I ignore those who seem to be doing well spiritually forgetting that, like me, they are also tempted to pull back from wholeheartedly following Jesus. Help me to develop a more active prayer life which supports the strong as well as encouraging the weak. And please help me to find others who will pray for me in the good times as well as in a crisis. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams