“But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.” ~ Philemon 1:22
We are all familiar with Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is trusting God for what is not seen, perhaps cannot be seen. Indeed, this is a very reasonable description of faith. If you can see something, there is no need for faith. You have the thing right there in front of you. Faith is required when nothing is before you, when there is no apparent evidence of the thing you desire. This all sounds good and well. And it is easy to talk about (or write about). But when it comes to living it, then that is another story. We live in a physical, tangible world, but we interact with an invisible God who often works in intangible ways. And, let’s be honest. When we are pressed against the wall, and we are desperately crying to God to do something, faith can seem fleeting. But, we grasp after it and hope that we are grabbing hold of just enough faith to effectively trust God, walk in that faith, pray in that faith.
You see, faith is necessary in seeking God for anything: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). This verse is a key to the whole matter. Yes, we must believe that God answers prayer. But as important as this is, this is not the first thing. The first thing is to believe that God exists. In other words, to have faith not in what God can do, as great as that is, but to have faith in the person of God Himself. This where faith originates, is nurtured, and grows in abundance—in a recognition of the Person of the Lord God. When you truly understand WHO He is, you have no struggle with believing what He can do.
Now, what does Philemon have to do with this? The above verse, from this often overlooked book, is a great illustration of what I am talking about. You have to get the picture. Paul is in prison in Rome. He is writing to a friend, Philemon, who is over 900 miles away in Colossae. Paul’s fate is uncertain. He may be facing a long imprisonment, or even death. But what does he ask of his friend? “Prepare a guest room so it will be ready for me when I am released.” What faith! But what does Paul base this faith assertion on? What reason does he have to expect to be released? “Philemon, this is going to happen because of your prayers!” Paul believed in what was not visible, not evident. And he believed in it because of two things: 1) He knew His God, and 2) He had confidence in the power of prayer. Put simply: Faith + prayer = results!
I heard a story that further illustrates this idea. It concerns a man at home on his day off. He had his day all planned—to do nothing. As this man sat watching TV, his 10-year-old son came in. He had recently received a puppy as a gift. “Dad,” he asked. “You said you would help me build a dog house. Remember? Can we do that today?” Without really listening, the father distractedly said he would. The boy excitedly ran from the room. The man continued to watch his program, without giving his son or the doghouse another thought. But after a little while, he happened to glance out the window. What he saw stirred his heart. There was his son in the backyard sitting on the pile of lumber that had been purchased for the doghouse. Next to the boy was an assortment of tools—a hammer, hand saws, power saws, screwdrivers, staple gun, rulers, pliers, wrenches, drills, a crowbar, paint brushes, scrapers, clamps, and more. The boy didn’t know what exactly was needed to build a doghouse, so he gathered everything he could grab. He was ready. He was sitting in excited anticipation. His Dad had told him they were going to build a doghouse. And he trusted his Dad. Knowing that his father would keep his word, he decided that he would be prepared and ready. Can you guess what the father did? He got up, turned off the TV, and went outside to build a doghouse.
Sometimes faith is like that little boy. It is like Philemon. It prepares, in anticipation of God’s answering prayer. So what are you praying for? What do you need God to do in your life? What do you want God to do? Are you anxious about it in anticipation, or in worry? Are you prepared in faith for the answer to come? If you have heard your Father speak a promise to you, you can count on it. He will do it. Be ready for the answer.
“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.’ ” – Andrew Murray
Written By Pastor Victor Morris, Founder of Truth Builders Ministry and Chaplain at Advancing Native Missions