Two summers ago I worked at a Christ-centered, youth, adventure day camp. During a discussion one night, one of my leaders said something that has continued to resonate with me. I’m paraphrasing, but she said something along the lines of:
“When I pray and spend time with God in the morning, it sets me up to focus on God throughout the day and live out the Gospel in my life. However, when I skip God in my morning routine and pray/spend time with Him at night, my prayers are generally asking for forgiveness because I didn't incorporate Him into my day.”
This struck me, because I had experienced the exact same thing. I had lived most of my life forgetting about God and not incorporating Him or His Gospel into my everyday life.
Before continuing let me clarify: I am not saying if you pray at night, you don’t love Jesus. I am saying that we ought to continually remind ourselves of Christ’s sacrifice and allow it to shape every single aspect of our lives, proclaiming the Gospel and living in communion with God every day.
The Book of Philemon
We have begun studying the book of Philemon as a church. What does my story from earlier have to do with this book? Let me tell you. As I’ve started to study it and break it down, I’ve come to the conclusion that this book is fire (translation: a good thing). So I’d recommend reading through the entire book to help you contextualize everything and so that you too can bask in its greatness.
What all do we know about the Book of Philemon?
It is a letter written by Paul to a man named Philemon concerning Onesimus. Paul usually wrote letters to churches but this one was for a specific person addressing a specific situation.
Paul is an Apostle who is currently imprisoned for planting churches.
Philemon is a businessman.
Onesimus is a slave who ran away from Philemon.
You can read the whole letter (25 verses) in a few minutes. It's one page.
These three men are the type of men who pray in the morning. In other words, they incorporate our God and the Gospel into every aspect of their lives from the moment they wake up.
We find out that Philemon met Paul while Onesimus was missing and came to follow Christ (Score one for Heaven). Later on in Pauls’ travels, he met Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave, and Onesimus also becomes a follower of Christ (Score two for Heaven). As it happens, Onesimus becomes a great helper of Paul and the advancement of the gospel in general, yet as Paul finds out about Onesimus’ past, he felt it appropriate to ask Onesimus to return to his former master, Philemon.
Paul wrote this letter to ask Philemon to take back Onesimus, and to do it in a manner worthy of Christ’s love by Whom they were all united as brothers.
This is a messy story and Christ’s love redeems it all. If these men had not been the type to start their days in prayer to God and to live their day in light of the Gospel, the story might have ended quite differently. Selfishly, Paul might have wanted Onesimus to stay with him. Additionally, Onesimus might have never agreed to return to Philemon. If he had, Philemon might have received Onesimus harshly. I could go on, but I think the point is clear: we need Christ in every aspect of our daily lives, not just to forgive us before we fall asleep.
What are my takeaways?
I plan to be one who prays in the morning, seeking God and allowing Him to work in my day to day. I’ll do this in preparation for whenever I metaphorically speaking need to send a slave back, receive a runaway slave, or be the runaway slave getting sent back. I want the Gospel so deeply woven into the very fibers of my being that I will walk forward into any of those options with ease. As a way to ease into this practice of praying in the morning, I found this prayer attributed to St. Patrick to pray and declare over my day. I encourage you to do the same if you are willing: