Summary: Paul needed prayer. He asked his readers to pray for him. God delights to hear the prayers of His people on behalf of others, especially pastors and missionaries.
ROMANS 15: 30-33
A REQUEST FOR PRAYER
[Acts 20:22-25; 21:10-11]
Paul's ministry plan was to go to Jerusalem to deliver an offering sent by the Gentile churches to the needy Jewish congregations. After completing the relief offering, Paul hopes at last to be free to pursue his mission to Spain, stopping en route at Rome with a "full measure of the blessing of Christ" (vv. 28-29). Paul was under no illusions about the hostility awaiting him in Jerusalem. Neither were others. He had already escaped one plot on his life there (Acts 9:29-30), and omens and prophecies of yet another awaited him (Acts 20:22-25; 21:10-11). Paul needed prayer.
He asked his readers to pray that he would be delivered from unbelievers (v. 31); that his ministry among the believers in Jerusalem would be accepted (v. 31); and that God would permit him a refreshing visit in Rome (v. 32). In Acts 21:15 to 28:31, God's answers to these prayer requests are revealed.
God still delights to hear the prayers of His people on behalf of others, especially pastors and missionaries. When missionaries have opportunity to make requests of fellow Christians, they never fail to ask for prayer above everything else. Missionaries' testimonies of special, divine interventions, and of renewed energy being made available on the days when they have been prayed for [or when their names appear on the missionary prayer calendar] are not mere coincidence. They are clear reminders that God responds to the prayers of His people.
I. PRAYER REQUESTED, 30.
II. PRAYER REQUESTS, 31-32.
III. PRAYED FOR PEACE, 33.
In verse 30 Paul entreats the Romans to join him in his struggle through prayer. "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,"
As the great Apostle prepares to head into dangers both known and unknown he requests prayers. The Apostle Paul recognized his need for intercessory prayer support from believers and asked for it again and again (Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:3-4; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1-2; Phile. 22). We often view prayer as a time for comfort, reflection, or making our requests known to God. But prayer is often a struggle. Satan and your fallen nature resist intercessory prayer. Why? Because prayer is an offensive and defensive weapon in our fight against Satan. It therefore can involve wrestling before the throne of grace that the evil designs of men and demons may be thwarted (Eph. 6:18-20).
The Greek word translated "strive" [sunagonizomai] is derived from the word from which we get our word "agonize." In other words, Paul was asking for passionate, fervent prayer because he knew danger awaited him in Jerusalem. How did he know this? Because people in every city on his journey warned him, "You're headed for real problems in Jerusalem" (see Acts 20:23; 21:4; 11).
The urging to strive in prayer is motivated and empowered by the Lord Jesus and the love of the Spirit. This love is what the Spirit imparts and maintains in the faithful (5:5). So Paul entreats the Romans to join him or to "strive together with him" in his struggle through prayer. A Christian's intercession is a means of sharing in the ministry of others.
[In his book entitled Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen makes the following observation about prayer: "The paradox of prayer is that it asks for a serious effort while it can only be received as a gift. We cannot plan, organize or manipulate God; but without a careful discipline, we cannot receive him either."]
There are few activities that are as common to all believers as prayer. Prayer is the oxygen that fuels the Christian's life and ministry. Yet it could be equally said that there are few areas of the Christian life with which believers are as dissatisfied as prayer. Most feel that they should pray more or could pray better. Even Jesus' disciples felt that their prayer lives needed work (Luke 11:1).
If we are looking for an incentive to pray, we need look no further than our passage. Our prayers, as ordinary as they may seem, can help others to be more effective in their ministry. Paul asked the believers in Rome to become partners in his struggle through prayer.
Some Christians find it hard to ask others to pray for them. I'm one of them. We are too embarrassed to expose our needs to others or we hold back from making such requests because others have use prayer requests selfishly to focus attention their needs. Paul though realized the seriousness of ministry and situations and he focused his requests on spiritual and practical matters. He realized that prayer is a privilege and a responsibility. So he prayed for others and often asked others to pray for him. He attributed his success in ministry to God's grace but knew that it was also affected by the prayers of others.