Paul’s reliance on other believers in his ministry is here patent as he mentions his assurance that not only Philemon, but also his entire house-church is remembering him in prayer.
The Ancient Paths
“The family that prays together stays together.” This very catchy phrase was created as a motto in 1947 for the Roman Catholic Family Rosary Crusade, which was led by an Irish priest named Patrick Peyton (1909–1992). Inspired by the fact that prior to the world-changing naval Battle of Lepanto (1571), soldiers and sailors of the Holy League — a coalition of Roman Catholic states — had prayed to the Virgin Mary through the rosary for victory over the Muslim fleet of the Ottoman Empire, Peyton came up with the idea of praying the rosary as a way of combatting Communism. An advertising copywriter by the name of Al Scalpone (1913–2000), later a successful television executive, is actually credited with the creation of the motto.
Despite these interesting origins, the phrase does capture an element of the New Testament’s theology of prayer, namely the importance of praying together. Think about Paul’s letter to Philemon in this regard. In the main, it appears to be a private letter, in which the Apostle Paul takes up the subject of Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus with discretion and tact. The opening of the letter teems with familial terms. The letter is being written by Paul and his “brother” Timothy to Philemon, whom they consider a “beloved co-worker” (v 1), as well as to “the sister Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church in your house.” In his commentary on this verse, John Gill (1697–1771) plausibly suggested that Apphia was the wife of Philemon. As for Archippus — was he their son? Archippus is also mentioned in Colossians 4:17, where Paul urges him to “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”