The Blessing Of Intercessory Prayers

A Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Base on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 2b of 83


[We are continuing with our brief study of the book of Romans; and are into the second sermon wherein Romans 1:8-15 is tendered under 3 heads: (1) A note of Thanksgiving (v. 8); (2) A note of Prayer (v. 9-10); and (3) A note of Longing (v. 11-15) We have already considered the first point in our first instalment. In this second instalment we must consider how Paul prayed for the Romans.]

 

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 any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you”(Romans 1:9-10).

Observe 3 things from these words:

a. Testimony of Prayer

First notice again how Paul tells the Romans that he is praying for them. Experience teaches us how encouraging it is to be told that we are being prayed for. So Paul tells the Romans that he is praying for them. Indeed, he goes a step further than simply to tell them that. He uses a statement of oath to tell them what he was doing! “For God is my witness,… that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.

Paul wants the Romans to know he was praying for them. Nay, he wants them to have no doubt whatsoever that he is praying for them. It is easy for them to doubt since there is no way for them to verify what Paul actually does in his closet. So Paul tells them that God is His witness.

Sometimes ministers, and indeed ordinary Christians have to do what the apostle Paul does here. When we make an important testimony that is easily doubted, though we know it is true, it can be very comfortable to make an affirmation by oath. Now, we must be careful not to misuse oaths. We should as far as possible let our yea be yea and nay be nay. But oaths are not so much for ourselves. They are mainly for our hearers, and therefore when our testimony is very important, we need not hesitate to make an oath.

Paul thought it very important for the Romans to be assured that he was praying for them. It was so important that he made use of an oath: “God is my witness,… that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.

b. Constancy of Prayer

But secondly, notice his constancy and discipline in prayer. He prayed without ceasing and he mentioned their names always, he says. 

Now, to pray without ceasing does not mean that Paul did not do anything else but pray. Neither does mentioning the Roman church always in his prayer, mean that,— without fail,—every time he prayed, he would mention their name. But Paul certainly would have prayed regularly and frequently. He would probably have kept to a disciplined day to day schedule which included prayer at stated times. Daniel prayed three times a day kneeling and looking towards Jerusalem. He would have prayed constantly in his thoughts, but three times a day, he would cease all activities and prayed. We do not know what was Paul’s practice, but it was probably something like that. 

By his own testimony, we have no doubt that at such stated times of prayer, Paul would pray for all the churches he was acquainted with, and he would almost never fail to mention the Romans particularly. Paul must have had a systematic, disciplined prayer life in order to do so.

Herein is a godly example for us. We may not all have opportunities to do good to fellow believers physically; but we can all pray. We must not forget that prayer is one of the greatest kindness that we can do to one another. Indeed, as Matthew Henry puts it, sometimes, the “only kindness [we can do to our friends] that is in the power of our hands, is, by prayer to recommend them to the loving-kindness of God.”

Let us then learn to pray. Let us learn to cultivate a disciplined prayer life. Now, of course, we must not allow such a discipline to descend into a mechanical routine of bodily exercises. Paul certainly did not. Notice how he speaks of serving God with his spirit in the Gospel of His Son (v. 9). Paul has an intimate spiritual relationship with the Father through His Son. He prays without ceasing, but it is a not a repetitious, mechanical prayer, but a warm, outpouring of his heart to the Father. He serves God with his spirit, and not merely with is tongue or his knees.

c. Specificity of Prayer

But thirdly, let us learn something else about prayer from Paul’s statement in verse 10. Notice how specific Paul was in his prayer for the Romans?

Amongst the many petitions (that he must have put up for the Romans), Paul prayed that he might have an opportunity to visit them.

Paul’s desire was to visit the Romans. He was very specific about that. He was not wavering in his mind: to go or not to go is the question! No, he wished greatly to visit the Roman Church. He wished to have a prosperous visit to Rome. In fact, oftentimes, he purposed to go to them (v. 13). He might even have made some plans. So Paul was very specific in his request to the Lord about wanting to visit the Romans.

But notice how he prays. He prays that he would get there by “any means” and that he “might have a prosperous journey by the will of God.” Paul was specific about wanting to go to the Romans.

·         He poured out his desire to the Lord.

·         But he was mindful and obedient towards God’s providence.

·         He does not spell out in detail to the Lord, how he should go.

·         He does not demand that he must go.

·         He would go only if it was the will of God.

Paul’s attitude towards his purpose and desire was exactly as James teaches us. It was conditioned upon the will of God. Paul knew well the dictum: “Man proposes, God disposes!”

Is there a desire in your heart? Do you desire to go somewhere? Do you desire to get well? Do you desire a job or a better job? Do you desire friends? Do you desire marriage? Do you desire children? Do you desire to be better used of the Lord? Consider how you can pray in the same way as did the apostle Paul.

Paul’s prayer was eventually answered. About 4 years after he wrote this letter, Paul, as we mentioned, would set foot in Rome. He would set foot in Rome as a prisoner for the sake of the Gospel. He met many of the Roman Christians. But his stay in Rome was even more prosperous then that,—for God would use him to bring the Gospel into Caesar’s household. This happened because he was a prisoner, and was chained the whole day to a centurion. He had a captive audience which changes with every shift.

And Paul, moreover had the opportunity to speak to the Jews who were still in unbelief, for they came to him to his lodging, and he preached to them from morning till evening, so that many believed. Had Paul stayed with the Roman Christians instead of in a rented lodge, and under house arrest, such an opportunity would not likely have arisen.

The Lord answered His pray in a way beyond his expectation: “…if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

Dearly beloved, if you petition the Lord in faith, trusting that He knows best what is good for you, you shall surely see Him answering your prayers beyond your expectations. God is a prayer hearing God.

… to be continued next issue