Now of course this isn't a bad thing: it certainly is better than not praying at all.
But as we look at Paul's third prayer in Romans 15, we are given a window into the prayer life of a missionary (and evangelist and church planter):
"I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my serve for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen."First, Paul's passion is seeping through again. The word he uses for "appeal" is a strong one*, and in others contexts is translated "beg."
- Let us pray for this kind of passion for missions - whether local or foreign.
- Let us pray that we as a church would make not only private prayer, but corporate prayer a priority in our lives. When Paul uses the phrase "strive together", it implies more than one person.
Third, he appeals "by our Lord Jesus and by the love of the Spirit." By mentioning the Lord Jesus, perhaps he is reminding us of 12:1-2, and giving us yet another practical exhortation of what it looks like to live a life that pleases the One who died for us. For the sake of Christ and His great glory in saving His people - both Jews and Gentiles - Paul says, pray for me as I seek to extend His kingdom yet farther to the ends of the earth. Also, it seems that Paul infers that if his readers do have the Spirit of Christ in them (cf. 8:1-9), then the first-fruit of love will be at work in their hearts and lives (cf. 13:8-10; cf. Gal. 5:22). And evidence of this Spirit-wrought love for Christ and His people will certainly include praying for the advance of His mission.
- Let us pray for an eye to Christ's glory in missions, as well for an overflowing love for Christ and the lost.
Fourth, his prayer is specific: "Pray for my safety." There is nothing unspiritual about asking to be kept safe while on God's mission. Of course we know that it must be "according to God's sovereign will," but there is nothing wrong with praying this way (cf. Phil. 1:18b-20).**
- Perhaps as we pray through Operation World this year, we can pray specifically for the safety of missionaries, church planters, and strategic 'players.'
Fifth, he asks that his gospel ministry (and specifically the love offering he and Titus are bringing for the Jewish Christians) would be a blessing to the saints there.
- Let us pray that all of our labors, and all of the ministries at GCC would not only result in conversions, but would greatly bless Christ's people as well.
Sixth, Paul desires to make it to Rome safely, that he might not only bless the saints there (cf. 1:11), but that he - through them - might be refreshed (cf. 1:12). Again, we see the great purpose of [true, Spirit-empowered] fellowship amongst God's people.
- Pray that our times together - whether we gather corporately on the Lord's Day, or meet in our grace groups, or visit others individually - would truly be refreshing. This of course means "gospel talk" (the spiritual gift of 1:11 is Paul's gospel). Truly, the word of God is whole and complete, refreshing the soul (cf. Psa. 19:7).
Finally, Paul ends with a theme that has been coursing through this chapter: "peace".
- Let's pray that God would grant us all His peace as we strive together for His mission.
Oh what a guide the Scriptures are to help us pray God's words and thoughts after Him!
In Christ, our great Mediator before the Father,
* That Paul uses an aorist for "strive together" may also stress the urgency of his prayer (in other words, "don't wait to pray...pray for me right now!!"
** At the end of his "journey", Paul realizes that he is probably going to die. No prayer request is made for his safety, for, in his own words, he knows he has "finished the race" (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6-8)