Paul’s Appeal for Prayer

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers … that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints” (vv. 30-31).

- Romans 15:30-32

Like all godly people, Paul made plans but did not forget that whether they would be accomplished depended entirely on the Lord’s will (James 4:13-17). We find indirect evidence of this in today’s passage in the Apostle’s appeal to the Roman Christians to pray for his journey to Rome. As we have seen, Paul had long intended to visit the believers in Rome before he wrote to them (Rom. 1:13; 15:23). With his ministry in the east completed, the opportunity to go to Rome presented itself at the time Paul was corresponding with the Romans (15:22-29). But the Apostle knew that he would make it only if God continued to open the doors en route, and so he asked the Romans to pray with him to that end.

Paul’s appeal is “by”—that is, in the name of—“our Lord Jesus Christ,” as Christians are to pray in Jesus’ name (v. 30; see John 16:23). He also asks “by the love of the Spirit,” which likely means something like “out of the love that the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts for one another.” The Apostle grounds his request in the love believers have for each other, and this is a firm grounding indeed, for those whom we love are those for whom we will most diligently pray. This request for the prayer to issue from the Romans’ love for Paul is seen also in his call for them to “strive” with him in praying to God. “Strive” translates a Greek term that means the exertion of strenuous effort, so the Apostle indicates that the Romans should fully identify with his travails and needs in praying for him. John Calvin comments, “The godly ought to pray for their brethren, that they are to assume their person, as though they were placed in the same difficulties.”

The Apostle’s request for prayer is quite specific. First, he wanted them to pray for deliverance from “the unbelievers in Judea” (Rom. 15:31). Paul was not in Judea when he wrote the epistle, but he knew from the prophet Agabus that the Jewish authorities would arrest him and hand him over to the Roman authorities (Acts 21:7-14). Paul wanted his readers to pray that this handing over would be a deliverance to Rome so that he could preach the gospel there. The Apostle also asked the Romans to pray that his service would be acceptable to the saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:31). Apparently, Paul thought it at least possible that the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem would not receive the monetary assistance from the Gentiles. This was not an event Paul was concerned about without warrant, for Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians struggled with getting along in the early church.

Coram Deo

It is easy to strive in prayer for ourselves, for we feel our sufferings and we have an experiential understanding of the urgency of our needs. We find it much harder to strive in prayer for others because we do not have this experiential connection. We are not in their shoes. That is why we should work hard to empathize with others in their needs, for as we get a stronger sense of what is necessary for them, we are better able to pray for others with all perseverance.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 32
Nehemiah 1
Colossians 4:2
James 5:16b-18

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