Today I spent a little bit of time reading Philemon. I’ve always liked this little letter, in part because it hints at such an interesting story, of the runaway slave returning to his master with the letter from Paul. What a meeting that would have been. What must Onesimus have felt like as he neared Philemon’s home? To me the story highlights the idea of doing the right thing even at great cost.
This time as I was reading it through I noticed in particular verse 22. “And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.”
I’ve been thinking lately about our response to God’s faithfulness. I am often tentative in my prayers. I couch it in spiritual wrappers about the will of God being foremost. And of course it is. But sometimes it is just a plain lack of trust.
In the past few years I’ve had a few occasions where I hit on significant issues in life and was able to say with full confidence “This is God’s problem. Let’s see what he does.” This wasn’t a passive thing, sitting on my butt with my fingers crossed hoping it all works out. Rather, it was a surrender to God, confident that the outcome was in the hands of someone who is absolutely trustworthy. Paul’s instructions were to not just pray, but prepare for what God was going to do.
This is what our attitude should be when we pray. “I have given this to God, and I will prepare for his answer.” It isn’t magic, of course. God can’t be manipulated, and he isn’t at our beck and call. He’s a person, and he answers to no one. On the other hand, he absolutely loves his children, and he is absolutely trustworthy. You can bank on him keeping his promises and keeping his word to the last comma and dotted I. I have no doubt that he will do all that he has said he will do, not because he owes anything to me or to you, but because that’s the kind of person he is. He can be trusted absolutely.
Don’t just pray. Get the room ready.