What does Philemon 1:4 mean?
ESV: I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,
NIV: I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
NASB: I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,
CSB: I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers,
NLT: I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon,
KJV: I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
NKJV: I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers,
Verse Commentary:
This verse mentions thanking God for the faith of the recipient, Philemon. This parallels verses such as Philippians 1:3 and Romans 1:8, which say something similar. Verse 4, however, adds the additional detail of Paul mentioning Philemon in his prayers. Perhaps the highest praise Paul could have given a Christian leader was claiming to personally thank God for him. Further, Paul is doing this on a regular basis. This is an excellent example of "building up" others, as described in Hebrews 10:24–25. This demonstrates that Paul was an encourager, as well as an author and apostle.

This letter to Philemon is short, yet it mentions prayer on two other occasions, showing how important the topic is. Verse 6 again mentions Paul's prayers for Philemon. Verse 22 speaks of Philemon's prayers for Paul's release from Roman house arrest, so he could return to stay with the Colossian Christians.
Verse Context:
Philemon 1:4–7 describes Paul’s positive views of Philemon. Paul says he not only thanks God for Philemon, but does so always. Paul praises Philemon’s selfless acts of love and generosity, especially those towards fellow Christians. This is meant to set the stage for Paul’s upcoming request: that Philemon forgive and free his runaway slave, Onesimus.
Chapter Summary:
Philemon is a letter from Paul, regarding a runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul respectfully requests that Philemon forgive his runaway slave, free him, and allow him to serve Christ without restrictions. Philemon was a prominent figure in the church of Colossae. Paul goes so far as to ask Philemon to charge any debts owed by Onesimus to Paul himself.
Chapter Context:
Philemon is short enough that it only contains a single chapter. Because Paul knows Philemon personally, and has only positive things to say about him, there is no need for a lengthy discussion. Paul appeals to Philemon to forgive and release his runaway slave, Onesimus. Onesimus, a convert to Christianity, seems be the one sent to deliver this letter to his former master.
Book Summary:
Philemon is one of the shorter books in the Bible, but it contains some important information. The Christian concept of slavery cannot be understood without a proper review of this letter. Paul recognizes the facts of slavery in his era, and does not command Philemon to release Onesimus. However, he does appeal to the unity we share in Christ as a reason for Philemon to set this man free.
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