Have you seen this prayer request before? I don’t think I had.

“Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company” (Romans 15:30-32). Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to carry a contribution for the saints there that he had collected in Macedonia and Achaia (Rom. 15:26). As he closes the body of his letter to the Romans, he requests/urges the Romans to pray for him. Note several things about his request:

  • He urges/appeals to/exhorts them to pray – Paul was desirous, even desperate for the prayers of God’s people. Rather than a “take it or leave it” attitude, he believed that the prayers of the saints was vital for his life and ministry (cf. also Col. 4:2ff.). Do you?
  • He urges by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit – is the latter referring to the Spirit’s love for us, or our love for the Spirit (or both), or the love in us for God and neighbor created by the Spirit (cf. also Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:8)? Whichever it is (on first glance I lean toward the latter), it is the basis of Paul’s appeal. Because of Jesus Christ – because of the Holy Spirit and His work in you – pray for me!
  • We must strive/wrestle in our prayers (Cf. Col. 4:2) – a source of constant conviction for me.
  • Paul was praying this for himself – strive “together with me” – don’t just rely on others to pray for you, pray for yourself!
  • He asked them to pray that he would be rescued from the enemies of God, and that his service would prove acceptable to the saints. The former request was not granted in the sense that he was arrested in Judea (cf. Acts 21:11), but the latter was (cf. Acts 21:17). Remember, God doesn’t always answer all your prayers in the same way.
  • The reason he wanted these things was so that he could come to them in joy by the will of God, and find refreshing rest in their company. The will of God wasn’t exactly what Paul probably envisioned – he was arrested in Jerusalem, had to appeal to Caesar to make it to Rome, nearly died in a shipwreck and a poisonous snake bite on the way to Rome, and then finally made it to Rome, where Acts 28:15 tells us, “The brethren, when they heard about us, came…to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Knowing Paul, though the circumstances of his arrival in Rome were not pleasurable, yet I imagine his heart was filled with joy, and he did find refreshing rest in the company of the saints there. In a roundabout way, Paul’s prayers were answered, just not how he might have thought they were. Ultimately, our prayer must be Jesus’ in the garden of Gethsemene: “Not my will, but yours be done.”
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