Consider a time in your life when you have been desperate. Perhaps you were in a bad situation and needed deliverance. Perhaps the issue was related to health. Perhaps you thought something was going to happen, and wanted certainty you would get through it.
We all have moments, and even seasons, when we feel like the weight of the world is crashing in on us. It is in those moments that we are not only most likely to pray, but most likely to ask others to pray on our behalf as well.
Technology helps this matter greatly, as we can call or text others. People also post their texts on social media. Of course, we have the text blast that Susan sends when someone gives us a prayer request. We likely all remember a specific need shared for that text blast. Personally, I remember it was used once during my first trip to Kenya when one of us was in a different area and the driver was arrested on the way back to Nairobi. My friend Scott texted his church and Susan, and a about an hour or so later the situation was resolved and Carl was able to join us that evening.
Prayer is really a fascinating concept – we get to talk to and hear from God. God designed it that way. We often ask God for something during prayer, and we may thank Him for various things as we pray, but how often do we just thank Him for allowing us to pray to Him. I know some do that, and perhaps we all do it occasionally, but take a few moments to do that now.
As we transition to today’s passage, we need to realize that one of the blessings of prayer is that we don’t only get to pray for ourselves, we get to pray for others as well. We will take time to do that later, but for now, let’s look at Romans 15.30-33 and discover why Paul pleaded with the Romans to pray for him.
Paul’s Appeal for Deliverance
Many people include something about being protected from harm and evil in a prayer. It is a realistic concern, and protection from the enemy is included in the prayer Jesus taught His disciples – deliver us from the evil one. Again, I recall the Sunday before my first trip to Kenya. I had recently heard a few things that caused my knee to shake while I stood here preaching that morning. So, Reggie organized a prayer service for me before leaving that week – something our church has now done each time I, or the team, has left.
But many of the times we make an appeal for safety, we do so rather blindly. Therefore, our prayer may be earnest, but it is not specific. However, in the concluding paragraph of Romans 15, Paul was not overly specific with the Romans (the fact that he had not yet been to Rome may have been a factor), but he knew that everywhere he went the Judaizers and the Jews who did not follow Christ were wary of Paul, and often plotted against him. In fact, in Acts 20 and 21, we have clear evidence that Paul was not only concerned about what would happen, but was warned against going to Jerusalem because of what was to happen. But Paul went anyway.
Therefore, Paul appealed for the church at Rome to pray for him. He used a word translated as strive, which means here to overcome a struggle, or to wrestle. So, Paul appealed for them to struggle together against the forces that were working against him.
Again, Paul prayed for safety, but it was focused. He had a good sense of what awaited him, and he wanted people to pray that he would not be kept from accomplishing his mission.
Paul’s Prayer for a Delivery
The other matter of prayer was for the collection that Paul was taking to Jerusalem. You might recall from two weeks ago we looked at this delivery a bit. Paul had asked churches in the region (although he did not ask Rome) to take up a collection for the saints in Jerusalem who were poor and in need.
But his prayer was that they would receive the offering. Now, you might ask, why wouldn’t they receive the offering? Well, the people in Jerusalem were Jews; most of the people who gave to the collection were Gentile. You may think that is racist – and it is, but that doesn’t make it any less real. But beyond that issue was a practical one.
The church in Jerusalem was often persecuted by the Zealots. This group was anti-Roman, and would punish people (even fellow Jews) who sympathized with anyone who associated with someone who even might be Roman – which would be most Gentiles. This idea is one reason why Judaizers wanted Gentiles to be circumcised. If the Gentiles were uncircumcised within a church that had Jews, the Jews would be punished by the Zealots as well. To project this forward then, the receipt of an offering that would include money sent from Gentiles could cause persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and that might mean the church would reject it. Thankfully, in Acts 21.17. we see that James (the brother of Jesus) and many others in Jerusalem not only welcomed Paul, but they were filled with joy at what God was doing among the Gentile believers.
So, Paul asked for a prayer of deliverance for himself and it was mostly granted (he avoided death at least). Paul asked for the delivery of the collection (which includes his service to the church in Jerusalem), and it was granted. And Paul closed this short paragraph with a short prayer about the God of peace being with the Romans.
Of course, we have other prayers of Paul (including a doxology which ends this letter). And we have him asking for prayer elsewhere. And certainly, much could be said about those other passages. But for today, we are going to take some time in a few moments to pray.
Some of you were likely here at the end of January when we had a service of prayer based upon the book of Habakkuk. The reason that Habakkuk was chosen was because of his openness and honesty before God. If we are going to pray, we need to be honest with God. We need to be open before God. We need to know that if we are a born-again child of God, we can boldly approach the throne of grace, and then with humility present our requests to Him.
What’s Next?: Today, I invite you to do that. I know we have grouped into circles to pray in times past, but due to COVID, I know not everyone is comfortable doing that now, so I am going to ask you to simply take time to pray today – right here, right now.
If you want some ideas, we have included the list from January in the bulletin for today. Please add to the list as the Spirit leads you. Pray:
- For God to fully reveal Himself in our church
- That our church might let God shine His light through us
- That we might partner with other believers as witnesses in Fairfax and beyond
- That our church might raise up new leaders to respond to the challenges today
- That we might be agents of change for justice, peace, love, and hope in this world
- That our local government will seek God and make wise decisions for Fairfax and Atchison County
- That our state government will be God-honoring for the people of Missouri
- That our national leaders (President, VP, Congress, Supreme Court, and others) will have a heart for God and the people so that we can be United as the states of America again.
- Pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted in places like Nigeria, Myanmar, etc., and the growing threat of persecution in other places like even the U.S.
- Thank God for His power, His goodness, for His grace, and for His love.
- Praise God that He is willing to listen to people like us as we pray, and use people like us to share His love with others.
- Thank God for His sending of Jesus to provide not only salvation, but true life for those who believe.