Summary: There are three principles to guide our prayer that I want to show from Romans 1:9-12.
Today is the first Sunday of our Annual Week of Prayer. And so it seems appropriate to skip a few verses ahead to Romans 1:9-12 to learn about some of the Apostle Paul’s principles as they relate to prayer. Let’s read Romans 1:9-12:
"9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
"11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith." (Romans 1:9-12)
Dr. Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke, records that one day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Jesus then taught them the prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.”
The disciples apparently saw Jesus at prayer and knew that his prayer was not merely a vocalization of empty words that went nowhere and accomplished nothing. No! They knew that Jesus’ effectiveness in ministry was directly linked to his prayer life. And so they asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Our subject today is prayer, and the most significant thing to note about Romans 1:9-12 is that it teaches us about principles to guide our prayer. It is not a treatise on prayer. It is not a “how-to” for an effective prayer ministry. Rather, it is a glimpse into the Apostle Paul’s own prayer life—into his pattern of prayer for Christians in the growing church at Rome—and is therefore a model for us as we think about principles to guide our prayer.
There are three principles to guide our prayer that I want to show you in Romans 1:9-12 today.
I. Prayer Is Consistent with Christian Service (1:9-10a)
First, prayer is consistent with Christian service.
Paul said, “God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times” (1:9-10a).
It should not be necessary to say that, of course, but we often divorce prayer and service in our thinking. Sometimes we think that some are called to pray while others are called to service.
When we think of those whom we call “prayer warriors,” we sometimes think of frail old people who are incapacitated in some way and who can therefore “only” pray. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. There are some people who are in fact given just such a ministry precisely because of their circumstances. Moreover, if you ever find yourself in such a situation and you are unable to be outwardly active in Christ’s service, I want to encourage you to spend much time in prayer for others. That is indeed a valuable ministry. But, what I am cautioning against is the view that separates prayer and service in the life of the believer.
Here is where the example of the Apostle Paul is so helpful. We know of his life from the account of it in Acts. And we have additional insights from what Paul says about himself in his letters. We know that he was a pioneer missionary, taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to places it had not previously been known throughout much of the Roman world.
Paul was extremely active in Christian service. Listen to the tremendous hardships Paul endured as a pioneer missionary and apostle in 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28:
"I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."
The Apostle Paul established churches everywhere he went. After he established them he constantly kept in touch with them, helping them work through their problems so that he spoke of the “daily pressure” of his concern for them (2 Corinthians 11:28).