If you could have anything, what would you ask for? Our answer to that question might tell us much about ourselves, or others. In a sense, we could also draw conclusions about a person’s character by listening to their prayers. What do you want God to give you? What do you want?
- In my study of prayer this month, I have looked a little closer at some of the prayers that are recorded in the scriptures (there are more than I thought). Some of the prayers we can study are a reflection of the character of the one who is praying, even as we noticed in our study of Daniel’s prayer this morning.
- In Romans 1, Paul mentions to the Romans, in his opening words, that he often prays for them. I am convinced that his words also tell us something about what he really wanted from God. Read Romans 1:8-16 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established — 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
I. The character of Paul’s Prayer: It may be difficult to analyze or outline a prayer. But Paul tells the Romans, not only that he had been praying, but what he was praying for. I believe he tells them this because he wants them to want the same thing that he wants, and to pray for this as well. What does he say he was praying about?
A. He was thankful for those who were faithful to God. (v. 8). Paul had a unique responsibility as apostle, but he could not do his work without the work and faith of others. He recognized the blessing of mutual faith and the worth of the sacrifice of others. Consider how Paul ends this great letter on salvation. We may be tempted to pass quickly over the list of names in the first 16 verses of the last chapter (Romans 16). But they can only be properly read in a spirit and voice of thanksgiving and tenderness. (Read Romans 16:1-16) Paul had been helped by many faithful brethren. So have we.
- I am thankful for the Glindle Johnsons and Gano Garners of my life. For the Vesta Welshs and Phyllis Phillips. And the list goes on, just like Paul’s. I am thankful for those of this very audience who are a daily encouragement and help to me.
B. Paul prayed for the opportunity to serve others. Can you hear Paul’s deep longing as he tells them that he wants to come and see them? (“as God as my witness… I long to see you”; (vs. 9-11). But he longing was more than a desire to be with good friends, or meet new people.
1. Rom 1:11 – “that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established” . He continually prayed about going to Rome because he had something he wanted to give them.. some spiritual gift. This, no doubt was a reference to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit that only available through the hands of an apostle. We cannot give what Paul could. But it is Paul’s desire that truly distinguishes him from us.
2. Paul wanted to serve others. He prayed for the opportunity to give spiritual things to others. How often do we pray for the opportunity to do more for God, or others?
3. Paul prayed for the spiritual development of other Christians. Paul prayed the same prayer in behalf of the saints at Philippi as well. Phil 1:6-11 – being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
4. In Romans 1, notice that he wants them to be “established”. This word ,sterizo (Stay-rid-zo,) comes from a root word that means stable or solid, and is also translated as strengthened, or steadfastly set. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). How would this happen?
a. vs. – 12 – “that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” They would encourage one another. Even with the apostle it was a mutual process of ministering to each other, so that they could grow and be established. You have something of offer to other Christians, to the church.
C. Paul prayed that he would bear fruit in the spiritual work he was doing. Vs. 13 – I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. How much fruit have you produced for God? That is a serious question to ask ourselves. We are so oblivious to this personal responsibility that we do not even pray about it very often? If we were as unsuccessful at out secular jobs, we would certainly pray about that!
1. Notice the focus of Paul’s words further in this chapter. “I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son” (vs. 9) For Paul preaching the gospel was an act of worship. The word translated “serve” here is latreuo, the same word translated “worship” in Phil. 3:3 – “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit”
a. In other words Paul viewed his preaching as that of a priest before God rendering the sacrifice of holy duty. 1 Cor. 9:16 – “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (NKJ) It was neither casual nor optional. In the very first verse of this book, Paul says that he was “set apart (separated) for the gospel” – its proclamation was the central purpose of his life.
b. “I Am A Debtor..” (vs. 14, 15) He described his burden as a debt – “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.” (NKJ) IF God had saved Paul through the gospel, then He was obligated to all men, not just some of his choosing, to teach them the gospel.
2. All of those who are saved are under the same obligation as Paul described. To take the gospel to those who are lost. In every N.T. description of preaching, the universal nature of the obligation is inherent: The sower must sow his seed on every type of ground; the watchman must warn every citizen; the fisherman broadcasts his net..etc.
D. Paul prayed that the gospel would be preached – vs. 15 – “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.” Paul understood that there were physical limitations (as much as is in me). But he wanted the Romans to know what was in his heart. What mattered to him.
1. “I Am Ready” – the word Paul chooses here does not jut indicate that he is prepared to preach (surely he was) but that he was eager to do it. This is what he wanted the most. He wanted to preach the gospel.
a. In Acts 20, as Paul faced the opportunity to return to Jerusalem n a time of great personal danger and preach the gospel there, he made this statement.. “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.” (Acts 20:22-23) Paul spirit was bound to his commission to preach the gospel. In his spirit he was compelled to go because that was God’s will for him. Therefore he said, Acts 20:24 – But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
b. What does it take for you to abandon an opportunity to teach another person? “I called a few times and we just can’t seem to get together” “Every time I plan a meeting something comes up” Sometimes I realize that in the language of Paul, I am not very eager.
2. Paul’s eagerness to preach the gospel rested in his absolute confidence in its power to save the soul of the lost. As a doctor with the cure to a deadly disease, Paul was anxious to share what he had been given because he was assured it was what people needed the most.
a. vs. 16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” This is the thesis statement of the book of Romans. Paul equates the gospel that he preached to God’s almighty power. He spends the rest of the epistle showing why the gospel is so powerful. Paul is so committed, and so unashamed, of the gospel, that twice in this epistle he calls it “my gospel” (2:16, 16:25) Are you willing to so associate yourself with the message of the gospel?
b. The word for power in vs. 16 is dunamis in the Greek. We get our word dynamite from it. (used to remove mountains for roads, and totally transform the landscape). The gospel has the power to transform anyone who truly believes it – even the chief of sinners.
c. Paul expresses this power to the Corinthians as well: 1 Cor. 1:18,23-24 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Conclusion: What do you want from God? What do you pray about? Paul asked others to pray for him as well. Here again, he tells them what he wants them to pray for. It is not about having a nice place to preach or physical comfort. Col 4:2-4 – Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
- Have you heard the gospel? Do you believe it? It is the power unto your salvation. But you must obey it. Let me read you a portion of the gospel that some find offensive and therefore reject: II Th 1:7-9 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. Can we help you obey the gospel?