Monday, January 31, 2011

THE PRAYERS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT : The Prayers in Paul's letter to the Romans

We now come to examine the prayers of Paul in his epistles . There can be no doubt that  prayer  was not  simply  a doctrine  in Paul’s mind ; it was a dynamic in his life  . He lived  and walked , and preached  and counseled and wrote  in the  spirit of prayer . He is the  man who coined the phrase ‘ pray without ceasing ‘ (1 Thess 5:17) . 
The  life of   Prayer is   the secret  of  Paul’s  amazingly  effective apostolic ministry . It is the  reason  for  his powerful  preaching . Please note that Paul did not think of himself as a gifted orator  , such  as the Greek philosophers  were ( 2 Cor 11:6)  . His messages  in themselves  were not with ‘ lofty speech or wisdom’  ( 1 Cor 2:1) . He confessed that he  came to the Corinthians  in weakness  and in fear and much trembling ( 1 Cor 2:3) , but ‘in demonstration  of the Spirit  and  of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God ’  ( v.4) .  Where did Paul get this  power for effective ministry from ?  Certainly  we may say that he was  gifted  by God . However , on the human plain  we must also  say that he  fetched it by prayer . The gospel  that Paul preached   so mightily  was  not just ‘ information from God’ . It was  inspired. The old people called it ‘ unction’  .  It lived in the preacher , and as I said , he fetched  the life  for his gospel messages from  God  , who  inspired him by the Holy Spirit  to preach messages that would send spiritual earthquakes down the centuries  , reverberating  into our own day  , and no doubt it shall do so until the Lord Jesus returns !
Let’s consider  the prayers  of  this   man  whom   God used so much . Let us learn   the art of prayer  from him  as he learned it from the Lord Jesus .


  • 1:8-10  Prayer as thanksgiving  and petition
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you  always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.
In this  prayer we see two things  :
(i)               His thankfulness and prayerfulness  to God  for the  people , and especially when he hears of the fact  that  they are  doing well . In this case , he thanks God  for the fact  that their faith is being spoken about everywhere .  Let us learn  from this to praise God whenever we hear  that people are doing well spiritually . Notice  that  Paul  prays for them  always [1] -  i.e. whenever  he thinks of them , which is often  . Paul must have had a remarkable prayer list !
(ii)              His  prayer for  God to open up a way  to come to them .  Paul  knew what he wanted. He wanted  to be a blessing to the Romans for the sake of God’s glory  . He knew that had unique gifts  from god and he wanted to add these gifts to them for a season , to strengthen them ( v. 11)  , and to be mutually encouraged  by each other’s  faith  ( see also 15:32) .  But  Paul wasn’t just getting Impulsively on to the next ship . He was asking God  to confirm His will  to Paul .  I can relate to that . Ever since I had been to Germany,  I am looking for another opportunity  to  return  for a short while  to strengthen the  believers  there – but by God’s will  and providence alone  !  

  • 8:15 ; 26-27 :  Prayer inspired by the Spirit
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because  the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
8:15 : Here we learn  something  important about prayer ! All who  are born of the Spirit  are no longer slaves to fear , but they are privileged  to speak to their heavenly Father ( see also  Gal 4:6) with the help of the Holy Spirit  .  Paul explains this aspect about prayer further in vv 26 &27  .  Nowhere does prayer become more powerful and meaningful  than when we are  placed in situations  of absolute need  , where we  have no wisdom , and no strength . And sometimes  we are  even wrong in our prayers  - and at such times ,  we learn that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness  (v.26) . Our need  for help in prayer  is apparent as we  do not always know how to pray . It is at such times  that the Holy Spirit  interprets our groanings . He knows the mind of Christ . He knows how to make good prayers out of bad prayers . 

  • 10: 1  Prayer that  they may be saved !
Brothers,  my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
Paul had an incredible burden for the salvation of his people , Israel . His prayer burden was connected to the fact  that they appeared  to have a zeal for God  , but not according to knowledge . When last ( or  did you ever)  pray  for people like that ?   On the strength of this prayer I believe that we need to pray much more  for the  many churches  and Christians  in Namibia  who appear to have much zeal  for things religious , but  who do not have the Lord Jesus  as the SOLE directing  passion  for their lives or churches .  Paul says of such  : “ Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God  for them is that they may be saved ! (converted) ”   A radical prayer ! 
  •  12:12   Constantcy  in  prayer
Rejoice in hope , be patient in tribulation , be constant in prayer “ .  Steadfastness, perseverance  in prayer  is  an important   aspect of prayer . Perseverance is demonstrated in Lk 11 ( the friend at midnight) and Lk 18 ( the importunate widow) . People  who persevere in prayer  according  to God's will normally get what they ask for .

  • 15:5-6   Prayer for unity and like- mindedness
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Unity is  an important platform from which to  do the work of the church   ( see also Paul’s instruction in   Eph 4:1-6 and Jesus prayer in John 17 ) .  Satan thrives in chaos , and the progress of the gospel is hindered  where there is no unity  . Therefore,    we must  always  pray for unity , and  live in unity .

( Please  note :  the sermon was interrupted at this point , because  we were running out of time . This concludes  our  studies in prayer  during our Prayer Week  2011 ) . I hope  to do a complete series on the prayers of the Bible at some time in the future  . I can think of no better way  to  help people  to understand the life and practise  of prayer than  by  learning  this from the Scriptures )

[1] Gr. adialeiptos  ‘ without ceasing  , not in the sense of ‘uninterrupted ‘ , but  in the sense of  ‘constantly recurring’

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