Christians ought to pray for each other. Paul's captivity allowed him even more time, and God used his prayers in the upbuilding of churches and people. But in our age of activism, 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!
Praying is not just about asking God to act; it is also to thank Him for what He has already done. Joy comes as we accept the work of God and praise Him for it. Paul's joy, when praying for Philemon, was based on two ways in which God had been at work: 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. We all need to be sustained in our faith, through the prayers of others (Philippians 1:19). 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 supply chain.
© Dr Paul Adams