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,Romans 15:30(NASB)
Paul longed to visit the Christians at Rome but never managed to take the journey until he was brought there in chains and imprisoned... awaiting a Roman trial. However, the letter he wrote to this little community presents the most thorough and comprehensive treaties of the gospel.
He may not have understood why his plans to visit Rome were always prevented by the Holy Spirit, but we recognise his Roman epistle to be one of the greatest influences in maintaining the purity of the gospel of grace throughout the history of Christendom.
It is as he is bringing his extensive letter to a close, we begin to understand the desperate longing in Paul's heart to go to Rome and fellowship with his brothers and sisters there. The Lord had prevented his every effort to make this visit. He had already explained in his opening paragraphs, how often he planned to come to them, but was always prevented.
The great desire of his heart was to have a fruitful ministry among them, just as he had in so many other Gentile towns and cities. Paul understood that he was appointed to preach the gospel of God to Jew and Greeks alike... to believers and the heathen, to the wise and the foolish. Paul did not establish the church in Rome which made him increasingly eager to preach the good news there - not only for the mutual fellowship they would enjoy, but to ensure the purity of the gospel was maintained.
Paul earnestly exhorted his brethren in Rome to pray for him and to strive earnestly together with him in prayer. "I implore you, brothers," he writes, "through the Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to agonise together with me in your prayers to God - on my behalf." Paul was requesting personal prayer and the following verse details three specific prayer requests; i) that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, ii) that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, and iii) that by God's will, I may come to you with joy and be refreshed together with you.
Paul did go to Rome and meet with the Christians there, but it was probably not what he expected. However, his urgent pleading for his brethren to pray along with him, gives great insight into Paul's pattern of prayer, his willingness to share his personal need with other praying saints, and his readiness to persist over time by continuing to bang on the door of heaven for an answer.
His prayer-points showed that Paul believed God was willing to answer prayer, and he himself was prepared to seek the help of others in pursuing the desire of his heart. They also demonstrate that prayers may be answered in a way we do not expect and that delayed answers do not necessarily mean that the answer is 'no'. Delayed answers often help to strengthen our faith and encourage believers to unite together in persistent, purposeful praying.
Paul was not a man who grew weary in prayer nor was he unwilling to call on other believers to join him in praying. May we become increasingly prayerful people and not become weary when prayer seem to go unanswered or when our expectations are replaced by an alternative that God has purposed for us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the many insights into powerful, purposeful, and persistent prayer, and the wisdom in joining with prayer partners for specific needs. Thank You that You are a God Who not only answers prayer but uses our prayer life to increase our faith, draw us closer to Yourself, and join with others in pleading for Your answers. Help me in my prayer life to strive together with other believers when important issues impact our lives, and may our prayers reflect Your perfect will for the salvation of the lost and the growth of our faith. Thank You that we have continuous access to Your throne of grace for mercy to find help in time of need, and may I use this great privilege to forward Your purposes in my life and for Your greater praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.