God bless you in the name of Jesus Christ, whom Paul mentions eleven times in his short epistle to Philemon.
At the opening of the epistle to Philemon, right after the salutation, Paul tells Philemon of his thankfulness for him. This is the kind of appreciation we can and ought to have for one another. Developing a godly appreciation for one another is at the very center of our fellowship.
Paul’s prayer life was full of thankfulness. In reading through his prayers recorded in the New Testament today, I found 19 verses in which he specifically gives thanks. Thanking God for people was a habit he had developed.
Philemon 4 says, “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers.” The word “always,” in verse four, goes with the word “thank” not “mention.” It would read more literally from the Greek: “I always thank my God, making mention of thee in my prayers.” There is a discipline to remember people with thanksgiving.
The word “my” (when Paul says, “I always thank my God for you…”) indicates that it was personal and important to him. We are motivated to pray for people for whom we are thankful. He prayed for his servant-leaders and communicated with them regularly. Remember we are looking at thankfulness now in light of how it effects our fellowship with one another.
“Mention” is the Greek word, mneia. Here in Philemon it is a present participle meaning that it is continuous, repetitive, or habitual action that occurs at the same time as the main verb, to thank. This is how he thanked God, he made mention of Philemon is his prayers. Mneia occurs seven times and is translated in the KJV as “mention” four times and “remembrance” three times. Mneia is one of nine Greek words related to memory or remembrance, and Vine says it is always used in connection with prayer. Following mneia through its seven uses (Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:2; 3:6; 2 Tim. 1:3; Phm. 1:4) shows us how Paul habitually used a lift list and prayed for people.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make [poieō] mention [mneia] of you always in my prayers;
The heart of Paul and every other servant-leader effervesces in prayer for his people. At the very heart of our spiritual service to God is habitual, fervent prayer for those whom we serve. We do it without ceasing with the spirit. The spiritual intercession that we make for God’s people is our simplest service. We do it by the spirit, unnoticed, without great fanfare, knowing that we make intercession for the saints according to the will of God in this way.
“For God is my witness,” emphasizes how earnest and serious Paul is about this. It notes a solemn oath. Similar phrases also occur in II Corinthians 1:23; Philippians 1:8; and I Thessalonians 2:5. Here in Romans 1:9, it calls attention to something that should not be overlooked. At the very beginning of the foundational epistle to our administration Paul impresses on the mind of the Romans his commitment to pray for them.
I think it is important to note that Paul doesn’t simply say, “Philemon, I pray for you.” He says, “I make mention of you in my prayers.” “Make mention,” is translated from the Greek words, poieō mneia. It means roughly, to do a remembrance. This refers to an established habit of prayer in the spirit. I refer to it as doing my lift-list. Establishing the habit of praying by the spirit for those with whom you fellowship is vital. As believers we develop a lifestyle of prayer and pray prolifically for people and situations never forgetting those who labor together with us in the gospel.
The establishment of the discipline to pray facilitates the habitual remembrance that these scriptures talk about. We direct our hearts to God in prayer for those with whom we move God’s Word in a daily habitual manner. Then as we go through our day, our hearts are directed to God in prayer as specific individuals and situations present themselves. God will impress people upon our hearts, and when He does we should faithfully make intercession for them according to the will of God by speaking in tongues.
However, I believe what the Bible refers to, as poieō mneia, “making mention” or “doing a remembrance” is a specific commitment that people who move the Word together make to each other. It is a characteristic of the kind of fellowship that the first century believers enjoyed. It definitely makes an impact and brings people together, building love and compassion between them. Let’s finish up the last quarter of our MFC days staying firm in our commitment to make intercession for one another in perfect prayer.
By Wayne Clapp