HOW TO MAKE PRAYER PRACTICAL
30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.
33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
In light of the boldness with which Paul described his travel plans in these verses, we might conclude that he eagerly anticipated all aspects of his upcoming journey. But that is not the case at all. Even though Paul felt genuinely happy and excited about his upcoming trip, Jerusalem weighed heavily upon his heart. He had many enemies there. The Jewish leaders despised him for leading Jews away from the law of Moses. They considered him a heretic worthy of stoning. Despite these many dangers, Paul sets out for Jerusalem and during his last visit with friends at Philip the evangelist’s house (Acts 21:8), an ominous visitor arrives.
“Coming to the house where Paul was a guest, Agabus [a prophet] … warned him not to go. Like one of the prophets of the Old Testament, he made his warning vivid. He loosened the long, linen girdle from Paul’s waist, and stooping down, he bound his own feet and hands. While the believers gazed at him in silence, he said “The Holy Spirit says, in this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). Immediately the whole group, including Timothy and Luke, beseeched him to give up his plan to go to Jerusalem. With tears in their eyes they pleaded, but their words were like waves beating upon a rock. Paul was determined… so, knowing the danger ahead, Paul gathered his belongings and set his face like a flint to go up to Jerusalem.”
What an incredible scene to envision with the mind’s eye. It is hard to imagine the emotions of such a scene and the incredible determination and grit that Paul possessed in such a moment. It is hard to imagine the love Paul had for the people of Jerusalem. Despite the many apparent dangers, Paul set out for a city that was full of his enemies, bent on exacting payback on him. But Paul did not take this journey to Jerusalem without help. He asked for help from God’s Special team.
Paul Asks for Prayer
Prior to this scene and prior to his arrival in Jerusalem, Paul had asked the Romans in his epistle to pray for him as he ministered there. At a time like this, well at any time, what could be more important than prayer? I now I personally covet anyone’s prayers for me, please pray, please pray specifically and please pray often. From Paul’s prayer request in Romans 15:30-33 we can draw out four principles for how we, too, ought to pray.
- Awareness of the need (v.30) – Paul first made the Roman Christians aware of his need so they could pray for him. How many times do we neglect to share a need, or a prayer request with each other? Notice Paul was not afraid or embarrassed to let others know he had a need, a big need. If the Apostle Paul felt the need to boldly ask for prayer, how much more should we boldly ask for prayer?
- Willingness to get involved (v.30) – Prayer to Paul was not something to be entered in lightly, notice the phrase, “strive together with me in your prayers to God for m” The Greek word here translated as “strive” described athletes who were pushing themselves to the limits of exhaustion. When was the last time any of us prayed that way? We prayed so hard and so intensely that it pushed us to the limits of exhaustion?
Epaphras, in Colossians chatter four, it is said of him that he was always “labouring fervently” for others in prayer. Now here Paul is admonishing these Christians to “strive together” with him in their prayers. Paul and New Testament Christians took prayer very seriously… do we take prayer very seriously? Do we “labor fervently” to the point of exhaustion in our prayers? Do we “strive together” with other Christians in prayer? – Imagine if we did.
I think this is a great weakness in today’s church – we need, we must get more urgent, more sincere, more active, and “labor fervently” and “strive tougher” in our prayer for ourselves and each other. Over and over again that is how we are told to pray. Let’s make a commitment to our Lord to pray that way.
“Intercession… is about asking God to do what we cannot. Paul asked the Roman Church to pray “…for the love of the Spirit” (v.31) for his protection when he traveled to Jerusalem. The Church in Rome could not protect Paul themselves, but out of love they prayed that God would protect the great Apostle. There are many ways to express love to others. Perhaps the most sacrificial way is to pray for God to bless, protect, and provide for those we love.”
- Pray specifically (v.31-32) – Paul just does not say please pray for me. He enumerates three specific prayer requests, two to apply to his trip to Jerusalem and the other to his visit to Rome.
- Paul asks the Roman Christians to pray that he would be rescued from those “that do not believe in Judaea” (v.31).
- He also asks them to pray for the believers in Jerusalem and that his service would be accepted by them (v.31).
- Finally, Paul asks the Romans to pray for his trip to their city (v.32).
Paul believed in praying specifically. Do we pray in a grand general way, or do we pray specifically? Do we pray fervently? Do we strive in our praying?
- Restfulness in God’s will (v.33) – “That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.” Above all Paul trusted in the will of God and rested in it. Paul mentioned God’s peace in this verse perhaps to remind the Romans and himself that we all can rest in the God’s protection and plan in light of the dangerous and uncertain circumstance of life.
We need an awareness of the need, we need to have a willingness to get involved, we need to pray specifically then we need to rest in the will of God. Prayer can be practical. The answers may not always come as we hope or expect, but as Paul’s example shows, prayer is one of the most practical and most important things we could ever do.
 (Ball, 1996)
 (Hon, 2020)