Paul’s Prayer Requests

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

May 18, 2003

Paul’s Prayer Requests

Romans 15:30-33

Paul’s Prayer Requests

Turn to Romans 15. This morning we will be concluding our
study of this chapter. Last week we saw Paul’s passion and
plans in verses 14-29. This week we will examine his prayer
requests. These requests are not something tacked on to the end
of his discussion as a sign of piety. That may be the way that
some people treat prayer, but not Paul. His prayer requests are a
integral part of his passion to reach new places with the gospel
of Christ and of his hope of seeing his plans for fulfilling that
passion completed. Look at verse 30.

"Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ
and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your
prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those who
are disobedient in Judea, and [that] my service for Jerusalem may
prove acceptable to the saints; 32 so that I may come to you in
joy by the will of God and find [refreshing] rest in your
company. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen."

Paul’s urging here is the same as in 12:1. It is more
than just a request to do something. It is a beseeching or an
entreaty calling the brethren in Rome to the action of striving
together in prayer with him about his ministry in Jerusalem and
eventually coming to Rome.

The basis Paul gives for his entreaty for prayer is the Lord
Jesus Christ and the love of the Spirit. While a personal
relationship with those you are praying for is helpful so that
you know better what to pray for, the real basis for our praying
for one another is our common relationship to the Lord Jesus
Christ and our mutual love for one another that arises out of the
work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Christians desire to see
Jesus glorified and know that this is accomplished as He works
through His people. We are to pray for one another with that end
in view. We want to see the proper honor and praise given to our
God for what He is doing in the lives of others. In addition,
because Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ, we share a
mutual familial love for one another. This is a work of the Holy
Spirit in our lives.

Paul wants them to "strive together with" him in
prayer. The word "strive" comes from a root word
meaning to struggle or fight. We get our English word
"agonize" from it. The idea of striving in prayer with
someone is a very active work. Prayer can too often be done in a
half hearted almost passive manner, but it should be an active
spiritual struggle. In Colossians 2:1 Paul refers to his prayers
as a "great struggle" on behalf of those at Colosse and
at Laodicia. In Colossians 4:12 Paul commends Epaphras to them
because he was "always laboring earnestly (agwnizomai / ag’nizomai) for [them] in
his prayers."

Prayer as a Weapon

The Importance of Prayer

Prayer is part of our spiritual battle. Turn to Ephesians
6:18-20 where Paul brings this idea out even more.

18 With all prayer and petition
pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the
alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19
and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the
opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of
the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in
proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak
.

Looking at the context you will see
that verse 18 is not the start of a new paragraph, but rather the
conclusion of what precedes it. Remember that the punctuation in
your English translation as well as the verse divisions have been
added in by men. Koine Greek did not have such punctuation or
verse divisions. The meaning here will be a little more clear to
you if will change the period at the end of verse 17 into a
semi-colon and then go on with verse 18. Next pencil in above the
word "with" the phrase, "by means of," for
that is the sense in which it is used. Putting this all together
you have Paul’s final comment in this section dealing with
spiritual warfare as follows; and take the helmet of salvation
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; with
("by
means of") all prayer and petition pray at all times in
the Spirit,
…". The rest of the section transitions to
the specifics of also praying for all the other saints.

Prayer is in a sub-ordinate phrase
to verse 17, but that does not mean it is sub-ordinate in its
importance in spiritual warfare. Verse 18 actually takes us back
and connects with verse 14 and the various aspects of spiritual
armor Paul details in the verses following. It is "Stand
firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth . . . etc.
by
means of all prayer and petition.
It is through prayer that
we can be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. It
is with prayer that by faith we put on the whole armor of God
-
the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of
the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the
helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word
of God.

Paul states in verse 18 "all
prayer and petition." Prayer is a general term while
petition refers to specific entreaties brought before God. We
pray with both general and specific requests. We ask God in
reference to both general and specific needs. In general we would
ask God to help us serve and live for Him today. Specifics would
include asking Him for His help as we witness to another person
or in dealing with some moral or spiritual weakness in ourselves.

Praying in the Spirit

Paul also says here that we are to
"pray at all times in the Spirit." All prayer is to be
made in accordance with the Holy Spirit. How else can we pray and
know what it is within the will of God unless we pray in the Holy
Spirit? But what does that mean? We live in a day when there is a
lot of confusion about this caused by the charismatic movement. I
would prefer not to digress, but I need to make sure you
understand what the Bible itself says about praying in the
Spirit.

Contrary to what those in the
charismatic movement advocate, praying in the spirit is not
speaking in tongues nor is it some private prayer language. Let
me quickly dispel these myths.

First, Speaking in tongues is not
"ecstatic utterances of glossolalia" – or in laymen’s
terms – gibberish. Acts 2:8-11 could not be more clear on this.
The other tongues that were spoken when these people were filled
with the Holy Spirit were other languages known to those who
heard the languages that are listed in the text. They spoke in a
tongue unknown them, but which was known to the hearer.

Second, speaking in tongues was not
for the benefit of believers but for Jewish unbelievers. In 1
Cor. 14:21,22 Paul states, "In the Law it is written, ‘By
men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak
to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the
Lord. So then tongues are for a sign not to those who believe,
but to unbelievers; but prophecy is not to unbelievers, but to
those who believe.
" Paul is quoting from Isaiah 28:11 in
which the Lord pronounces a curse against Israel and gives them a
sign of His condemnation of them. When they would hear people
from other nations speaking in other languages coming to them
with God’s message they would know they had been judged. The
speaking in tongues was a sign of God’s condemnation of the
nation of Israel.

Third, speaking in tongues is not a
private prayer language. 1 Cor. 14, especially verses 2 & 4,
are often twisted in trying to show that praying in the spirit is
to pray in a private prayer language for the purpose of self
edification. Such interpretation only demonstrates a lack of
basic Bible study skills. The context of the immediate passage as
well as that of the whole book of 1 Corinthians is a correction
of their selfishness. Every spiritual gift is for the purpose of
the edification of the whole body and not for yourself (1 Cor.
12:7; Eph. 4:11-16). Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 14:4 that "One
who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies
edifies the church,"
is one of condemnation, not
commendation. They are wrong in their practice. His statement in
verse 2 that only God would know what they were saying is again,
not one of commendation, but one of sarcastic condemnation that
they have not given any consideration to the other believers
around them. Verses 3 & 16 make the same point. What they are
doing is not good, for without having their mind present, then
they could easily fall into blasphemy instead of prayer. That was
what was happening in Corinth (12:2,3) even while they were
claiming to be doing it by the Holy Spirit.

Others have tried to use Romans
8:26 as the basis for claiming that praying in the spirit is to
pray in an unknown tongue. Such argument also shows a lack of
basic Bible study skills. We examined this verse some months ago.
The verse says, "And in the same way the Spirit also
helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should,
but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep
for words, And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of
the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to
the will of God."
This is the Holy Spirit interceding on
our behalf, not us praying. And if the groanings are too deep for
words, how can that then be claimed to be the prayer language of
the man? Something that is too deep for words is something that
is left unspoken.

What is praying in the Spirit?
It is praying under the control of the
Holy Spirit for God’s will to be done. A person who prays in the
Spirit is seeking out God’s will and glory above all else. What
they may suffer is secondary to God being glorified by their
life. It is Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethesemane – My
Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, They will be
done."
(Matt. 26:42). It is Paul praying and striving to
go to Bythinia and being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit
to see that the Lord wanted Him to go to Macedonia instead (Acts.
16:7-10). It is Paul praying three times to have the thorn in his
flesh removed, but being satisfied with the answer from God that
the Lord’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Cor. 12:9).

As I have already pointed out from
1 Cor. 14:14,15 to pray in the spirit is not to leave out the
mind. Certainly there are times, as noted in Romans 8:26, when we
just do not know what to pray and there is a deep groaning within
us, but that does not mean that our mind has been cast aside.

I think of Paul’s dilemma in
Philippians 1 where he recounts his longing to depart and be with
Christ but at the same time desiring to remain and be with them
that he might still be used of God in their lives. Don’t you ever
feel that way. I am tired, I am weary and this old sinful world
gets to me. I long so much to cast aside all the cares of this
life and be in heaven with my savior. But at the same time I have
a great yearning to remain with my wife and work with her in
training the children in godliness. I long to continue laboring
here as long as the Lord will find me useful. There is a conflict
with in and I don’t know what to pray. So I leave it with the
Lord. He knows my heart and he knows what is best for his
kingdom. How do you pray in such a situation? Sometimes it is
very difficult, but there is comfort to know that the Spirit
intercedes Himself on our behalf right then.

Praying for Others

As I pray and petition the Lord for
my own life to serve Him faithfully and walk in holiness with all
my armor on, I also pray for fellow saints, their service and
their walk. I am not the only one involved in a spiritual battle.
So are all my brothers and sisters in Christ, so as Paul says in
the conclusion of verse 18, "with this in view, be on the
alert with all perseverance and petition for all the
saints."

The essence of this type of
intercessory prayer is that I take part in the spiritual battles
that other people are involved in through my prayers and
petitions to the Lord on their behalf. We need to be praying for
each other on a regular basis for both the common and the special
things of life. How? Let me give a few quick suggestions based on
each piece of spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6:14-17

Girded with the belt of truth. Pray
for one another to be controlled and directed by truth, that
Satan’s lies would be exposed and his slander against God would
be revealed.

Having put on the breastplate of
righteousness: Pray for one another that we would not be carried
away by our emotions but would instead by seeking after holiness
in all things regardless of how we might feel. That we would deal
with other people with grace and mercy instead of anger and
revenge. That marriage relationships would be kept pure and that
parents would be modeling godliness to their children. That
honesty would control us in all our business dealings and that
each of us would set and keep the priorities God has set for us
rather than what our flesh and pride might seek after.

Feet shod with the gospel of peace.
Pray that God’s peace would control us regardless of
circumstances. That we would seek out and rejoice in our
relationship with God and not neglect it in anyway. That each
person would grow in the knowledge of God and His love for us.

Taking up the shield of faith. Pray
for one another that each would become stronger in faith having
it tested and proven to be true. That we would counter each fiery
dart of the devil with a trust in God that exposes Satan’s lies
and grips the hand of the Lord even tighter.

Taking up the helmet of salvation.
Pray for one another that each would live according to the new
nature given to us at salvation and would live with salvation’s
hope moving us forward. That we would view life from eternity’s
view and no longer live for the pleasures of the moment. That our
minds would be renewed and every thought would be taken captive
to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).

The sword of the Spirit. Pray that
each one would handle it with accuracy and not be carried about
by every wind of doctrine, but become mature and firm in
understanding and convictions based solidly on the Scriptures.
That in our usage of the Scriptures we would be adept at using
them to defend ourselves from Satan’s attack as well as using
them to help others to come to Christ.

These are brief examples, but I
trust you get the idea of how we can pray for one other and at
the same time remind ourselves to keep our own armor on. These
are all general examples, but Paul makes specific request both
here in Ephesians and in Romans 15.

Paul’s Specific Requests

19 "and pray on my behalf,
that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to
make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which
I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak
boldly, as I ought to speak."

Think about that for a moment. The
apostle Paul is asking people to pray that he would be bold. Paul
who began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues of Damascus only a
few days after he was saved (Acts. 9:20), who then a few weeks or
months later is boldly doing the same thing in Jerusalem (Acts
9:28), who some three years later goes on a missionary journey
through Asia Minor to places where the gospel had not been
preached before, then not long after getting back from that
adventure he does it again, but this time going to Macedonia and
Greece as well, who stood up in the midst of the Areopagus in
Athens to proclaim Jesus to the philosophers (Acts 17:22), who
proclaims Christ without hesitation to the mobs that try to kill
him (Acts 21). This Paul asks people to pray that he would be
bold? Yes, he does, and so how much more should pray for one
another.

Back in Romans 15:31, Paul asks
them to pray concerning two specific areas. First, that he
"be
delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea,"
and
second, that his "service for Jerusalem may prove
acceptable to the saints."

Paul is writing this letter to the
Romans as he was nearing the completion of his third missionary
journey. On that journey Paul had spent three years in Ephesus,
then went to Macedonia, and then spent 3 months in Greece before
returning to Macedonia. This would be when he collected the
contribution from them for the poor in Jerusalem. Paul sailed
from Philippi to Troas and then down the coast to Miletus. We
know from Acts 20:22,23 that by this time the Holy Spirit had
revealed to Paul that bonds and affliction awaited him in
Jerusalem. Paul did not know what would happen to him there, but
it is apparent from his prayer request here in Romans 15 that
Paul was already aware of this at the time he wrote this letter.

It is a normal prayer request to be
delivered from trouble you may be facing. However, Paul does not
request that. He asks instead to "be delivered from those
who are disobedient in Judea."
Again, Paul already knew
by the Holy Spirit that bonds and affliction awaited him in
Jerusalem. The prophet Agabus told Paul in Acts 21:11 that he
would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles. Many of his
companions begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem because of this.
Paul’s own attitude is recorded in Acts 21:13, "For
I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for
the name of the Lord Jesus."

Paul was resolute toward what would
happen to him when he got to Jerusalem. He would not shirk his
obligations in order to protect himself. He would leave himself
and his safety in the Lord’s hands. This was neither
foolhardy, fatalistic or irresponsible in any way. On the
contrary, Paul was being responsible in trusting God to work His
will in whatever lay ahead. While we are not to seek out danger
as a means of proving our trust of God, for we are not to put God
to the test (Matt. 4:7 cf Deut. 6:16), neither are we to cower in
fear from the dangers we will face in serving the Lord. Whenever
it is clear that some action is according to the Lord’s
will, then we should do it regardless of the negative
consequences we might suffer because of it.

Too often Christians will shy away
from their responsibilities in declaring the truth of God in word
and deed because they are afraid of the negative reactions they
will get. Too many Christians want to avoid suffering so much
that they will compromise their professed faith. That ought not
to be. The strength and reality of our faith is only proved by
what we are willing to suffer for it.

Paul is not trying to avoid the
afflictions he knows will come, but rather to be delivered from
those Jews that were disobedient to God and seeking to hinder the
gospel. Paul knew these people well because he once had been one
of them. They had zeal without knowledge, and so in their
blindness they thought themselves to be serving God when in fact
they were opposing Him.

Why did Paul want to be delivered
from these people? Because, as verse 32 tells us, Paul’s
desire was still to go to Rome and fulfill the plans and desires
that were still on his heart. He already stated back in chapter 1
his desire to impart some spiritual gift to them, help establish
them, be a source of mutual encouragement and obtain some fruit
from among them (1:11-14). Last week we also saw from 15:24 that
he wanted to see them, enjoy their company for awhile and be
helped by them on his way to Spain.

Paul’s second prayer request
was that his "service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable
to the saints."
Essentially, Paul wanted them to pray
that he would be able to complete his current ministry task
regardless of any opposition. He wanted to be a blessing to the
saints there. He did not want any opposition to cause the gift
from the Gentiles to be offensive to the saints in Jerusalem. He
wanted them to receive it with the same attitude of love with
which it was given. This desire was not mixed with any thought of
personal glory. Paul had long before humbled himself before God
to be a simple bond-servant. All glory belongs to the Lord. It
would be against Paul’s character to seek to take away from
that for himself.

If the Lord was gracious in
answering these requests, then Paul knew that he would be able to
go to Rome "in joy by the will of God and find refreshing
rest in your company."
There would be joy in Paul’s
heart over being able to both complete his present ministry task
of delivering the offering from the gentiles and having it
accepted by the Jewish saints in Jerusalem and in being able to
fulfill his desire to go to the saints in Rome. None of this
could happen except that it would occur by the will of God. That
is why their prayers on his behalf were so important to Paul. He
did not want to be outside of the will of God in the least little
bit.

Paul then ends this section before
going on in chapter 16 to bring personal greetings and some final
instructions. "Now may the God of peace be with you all.
Amen"

God is the only source of true
peace, for only in submission to His will in our lives can there
be harmony with our creator. Only in Christ can we find the
meaning and purpose of our existence. Until a person is
reconciled to God through faith in the person and work of the
Lord Jesus Christ, they remain under God’s condemnation and
wrath. Paul could express this desire for their benefit only
because he already knew it himself in the midst of all the
troubles and afflictions that he faced in serving Christ. He knew
that they could experience that same peace because of their
personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their savior.

How is your prayer life? Are you
active and diligent in praying for others? How do you want people
to pray for you? How are you praying for them? Are you praying in
the Spirit of God to see His will accomplished in yourself and
others? Are you praying for good things to happen as well as for
evil things to be avoided? Pray for one another just as Paul
requested prayer for himself. Pray for one another to be bold in
living for Christ. Pray for deliverance from those that would
seek to stop us from completing our ministry responsibilities or
carrying out our ministry plans.

 

 

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KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children
draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon.
Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children :
Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many
times "pray" or "prayer" is mentioned in the
sermon 2) Discuss with your parents how God would like you to
pray for others. 3) Start keeping a prayer journal to keep track
of what you are praying for, and how God answers your prayers.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is the context of Romans 15:30-33? How does this passage fit
within that context? How can we strive with someone else in
prayer for them? Who were those in Jerusalem that were
disobedient from whom Paul sought to be delivered? What did Paul
want to accomplish in Jerusalem? What would make this service
acceptable to the saints there? What did Paul desire to do once
he was done in Jerusalem? What is the context of Ephesians
6:18-20? What specific requests does Paul ask people to pray on
his behalf? In what manner did he want them to pray? How does his
request fit within the context of Ephesians 6? What are the
similarities between Ephesians 6:18-20 and Romans 15:30-33? The
differences? How important is it to you that others are praying
for you? What do you want them to pray on your behalf? How do you
communicate your requests to others? How do you find out their
requests so that you might pray properly for them? What are your
favorite passages concerning prayer? Why are those particular
passages important to you? Are you satisfied with your prayer
life? If not, why not? What needs to change? When will you make
those changes?

Sermon
Study Sheets

 

Sermon Notes-
5/18/2003 am

Paul’s Prayer Requests – Romans 15:30-33 & Ephesians
6:18-20

Introduction (vs. 30)

Prayer as a Weapon (Ephesians 6:18-20)vs. 14)

The Importance of Prayer

Praying in the Spirit

It is not "speaking in tongues"

"Tongues" are Not "ecstatic utterances of
glossolalia" – Acts 2:8-11

"Tongues" are Not for the benefit of believers –
1 Cor. 14:21,22, cf. Isaiah 28:11

"Tongues" are Not a private prayer language – 1
Cor. 14:2,3 cf. 1 Cor. 12:7; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 14:4

1 Cor. 12:2,3; Romans 8:26

Praying in the Spirit is:

Matthew 26:42; Acts 16:7-10; 2 Cor. 12:9

Praying in the Spirit includes praying with the mind – 1
Cor. 14:14,15

Praying for Others (Ephesians 6:18)

Girded with the belt of truth –

Wearing the Breastplate of Righteousness –

Feet shod with the gospel of peace –

Carrying the Shield of Faith -

Wearing the Helmet of Salvation –

Wielding the Sword of the Spirit –

Paul’s Specific Requests

Ephesians 6:19,20

To be delivered from the disobedient in Judea – Romans
15:31

That his service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the
saints – Romans 15:31

Joy in the will of God – Romans 15:32

Benediction – Romans 15:33