What do you pray for? Prayer is personal and intimate. It was for the Apostle Paul. He lays bare his heart in many of his letters so that we can see the focus of his mind. He describes himself as a “prisoner” (verse 23) as he writes his short letter to Philemon. This was primarily about Onesimus, a slave who had belonged to Philemon. He had escaped, but had now become a believer.

Paul tells Philemon, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers”. And what is he remembering? Paul explains, “because I hear of your love and faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective …” (verses 5,6). Paul has “much joy” in learning of the spiritual attitude Philemon had developed since Paul had converted him. He writes, “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you” (verse 7). It is “hearts” that most need refreshing!

Paul is anticipating a positive response from Philemon because his escaped slave had now become a believer; he says, “Yes brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ” (verse 20). Do we refresh the hearts of one another by seeking benefits from one another? This is the “fruit” that arises from genuine fellowship. Although he is a prisoner Paul says, “I am hoping that through your prayers, I will be graciously given to you” (verse 22). So, we ask ourselves again, ‘What do you pray for?’

Paul’s prayers were far from being self-centred. Let us pray “that the sharing of (y)our faith may become effective” – to greater and greater degrees. How good am I at sharing my faith? That How long is it since I told someone what the Bible really means? Sharing one’s faith is personal, it aims at a ‘heart to heart’ communication. So we must make doing this a matter of prayer, prayer that reflects our thoughts and attitudes to the meaning of life and the reality of our relationship with the unseen.