Good morning. Today is a small milestone for me as this is my 200th blog. That is interesting considering I have only been using blogger in a short time compared to the other tools in the past. I have been sharing the Word in this form now for seven years. Interesting statistically but of no great value to know. :-)
Today we conclude much of Romans as we look at chapter 15, verses 23 to 32. Paul is expressing his hope to be able to visit the church in Rome at some point in the near future. He either has not yet heard from the Spirit as to what awaits him in Jerusalem or he does not care to share this with the church in Rome.
There is one thing that really stands out for me in these few verses. It is the one thing he asks from the church in Rome. He does not request any help other than this:
I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. v. 30
The greatest privilege we have is to intercede, to petition for each other. He did not ask for money or for them to send a gift, or even for more workers to join in the endeavour to win souls. Paul asked that they would join in his struggle by praying through Jesus and in the love of the Spirit. Prayer is the easiest weapon we have in this struggle. It should be the most natural for us to use. The only cost is time and some effort.
I was curious about our attitude toward prayer so I looked for some statistics but the only study I could find was from ten years ago and it was from the States. It is here if you are curious: prayer study. However, my opinion is that people lie in statistics and we have also seen a decline in the Church over the last decade. Just by the spiritual doldrums that we see we should be able to know the truth of the matter. When people are truly interceding there is a passion that is awakened in them, an eagerness, and anticipation of answered prayer.
Paul also did not ask for general prayer. He was specific in his needs:
Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, v. 31
Specific prayer is the best in petition and if it is the wrong thing to be praying, if it is not the Father's will then the Spirit will check us and perhaps give us a Word for the person for whom we are praying. Paul had two concerns here. He knew he had many enemies in Judea as the Jews believed him to be a heritic and perverter of Judaism. But he also had enemies among the saints. The political situation had changed in the church in Jerusalm as more of the priests and Pharisees were becoming followers but they were also bringing with them the teaching that the law still had to be followed. This meant they saw no credibility in what Paul was doing. My personal opinion is that Paul was set up in Jerusalem but that will have to wait for another time. Right now it is enough to know that Paul knew what he was heading to and he was asking for specific prayer.
At our Tuesday evening prayer meeting we have been praying for specific things for people and we have been watching the Lord answer these one after another. We have been encouraging people to testify about these answered prayers and to give praise and thanksgiving to the Father as Jesus told us to do. Prayer is important but so is praise and testimony for answered prayer. We encourage each other through this as we give witness to the faithfulness of our Father.
Understand that as we ask for prayer if should not be for selfish gain. Everything we do should be for the glory of the Father, for the building up of the Church. Why did Paul ask for intercession?
so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. v. 32
Paul was asking for these two things so that he would be able to come to Rome, that both he and the church there would experience a refreshing in the Lord. Paul was not asking simply so that he would be kept safe but instead that he would be able to continue his ministry. As we pray we should always try to have the mind of Christ that we would know the Father's will as we pray. When I pray for people's healing I usually ask that it would be done to encourage the person, to remind them that our Father loves them and is occupied with them. We want healing for people so they will not suffer; that is the compassionate part of us. But the greater desire is that they would grow spiritually from the experience. We need to understand not only the specifics but the benefits of answred prayer.
Prayer should be as natural to us as breathing. Petition should be our first response. We need to discipline ourselves in this because we are lazy by nature. Too often our first response is a physical response; how can I take care of this need? But the greater response is asking the Father to take care of the need because then there will be spiritual fruit. So let us be specific in our prayers. Let us have expectation of answered prayer. And may we see the spiritual benefit in our intercessions.
Allow me to give the last word to James:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (5:16)