Summary: God's power is unleashed when we pray.
Praying With Power
Rev. Brian Bill
In a small Texas town, a bar began construction on a new building to increase their business. The local Baptist church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and many prayers. Work progressed right up till the week before opening when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.
After losing his building the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building. The church vehemently denied all responsibility in its reply to the court. After looking at all the facts, the judge commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, because it appears that we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not.”
Do we believe in the power of prayer? Does your practice of prayer affirm that God unleashes His power when you pray? Last week we learned that God’s purposes prevail even when our plans don’t. Today, we’ll be looking at just four verses from Romans 15:30-33 and we’ll discover that God’s power is unleashed when we pray.
It’s my prayer today that this passage on prayer will encourage, motivate and propel us to pray with power. Let’s read it together and then let’s dig into the details: “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. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
To prepare us for this prayer passage to percolate deep within, let’s make a few observations.
• This is a very personal request. Paul uses the pronouns “I,” “me” or “my” seven different times.
• Paul is committed to the community of believers. He calls them “brothers” and asks them to join him in his struggle in verse 30. In verse 32 he expresses his desire to come to them “and together” be refreshed. And in verse 33 he pronounces a benediction of peace on them.
• All three members of the Trinity are mentioned. Check out verse 30: “By our Lord Jesus Christ…by the love of the Spirit…praying to God…”
• The first three characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit are listed. “Love” is linked to the Spirit in verse 30, “joy” jumps out in verse 32 and “peace” is found in verse 33 (compare to Galatians 5:22).
An Intercession Outline
As we look at this passage, I want us to understand the text and then I want us to look for ways to put it into our context so that Paul’s practice of prayer can be something we practice as well.
1. Prayer is a struggle. If you’re waiting for prayer to come easy for you, you’re going to wait a long time. Let’s take a look at verse 30: “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.” The beginning words show us that Paul has to urge us, which means to exhort or “call into service.” This same phrase is used in Romans 12:1 where Paul pleads with us to offer our bodies to the Lord.
Notice that Paul is once again all about giving Jesus glory: “by our Lord Jesus Christ.” This can also be translated as “for the sake of.” He’s also motivated by “the love of the Spirit.” When praying it’s good to ask ourselves if our requests are for the sake of the Savior and motivated by the love of the Spirit. To say it another way, when we consider what Christ has done and what the Spirit is now doing, how can we not but pray?
While Paul was a pioneer and a prolific church planter, he knew that he couldn’t function alone. He needed others to intercede for him as see in this phrase: “join me.” He calls on them to partner with him in his “struggle.” This word was used in both athletic and military spheres and is translated as “fight” in John 18:36. It comes from the same root from which we get the English word “agony.” It’s the same word used of Jesus when he was in Gethsemane in Luke 22:44 when Jesus was “in anguish.” Interestingly, while He’s doing battle in prayer, His followers fall asleep. We’re a lot like them, aren’t we?
I think prayer is a struggle on at least two fronts.