Sticking at Prayer

We all face the temptation to give up praying for all sorts of reasons. Here, among a string of other things, Paul encourages us to never let up praying, especially when we face life’s difficulties:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. — Romans 12:9-13 (ESV)

If only prayer would become as natural and as constant as breathing. But how do we get there? A good start is to make prayer a habit by setting aside time devoted to prayer, morning, afternoon and evening. If we are stuck for something to say to our Loving Father, the Psalms lay out ready-made prayers, as does the Lord’s Prayer. Whatever hardships befall us in life, we need to meet them with prayer, not impatience, knowing that nothing can rob us of the eternal future we have to look forward to.

Father, make us eager to talk to You in our affliction, instead of being petulant, and may we never lose sight of the hope set aside for us by the blood of the Lamb. Help us embrace prayer as essential as each breath.

 

Prioritise Prayer

Despite the busyness and all of the demands of ministry, Paul did not neglect the discipline of prayer. Instead—after requesting prayer of the Romans—he modelled it, rounding out Romans 15 with prayer:

I appeal to you, brothers, 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 service 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. – Romans 15:30-33 (ESV)

Paul soon moves to bring the letter to the gathering in Rome to a close, this time with a prayer of praise (Romans 16:25-27):

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (ESV)

It is not sufficient to just give alms or merely talk to people about Jesus, these things need to be accompanied with prayer. Of course there is no guarantee that prayer will sanctify our actions (sometimes our actions are plain sinful), nor will prayer make everything turn out the way we hope. However, if we do things without praying, how can that be in accordance with God’s will? In many instances, the difference between doing what we want and what God wants, will be prayer. If you take nothing else away from what I’ve been saying on Romans, please, soak everything in prayer, absolutely drench it. We need to douse every situation and person we encounter in prayer, and watch God light it all up by His Spirit.

It seems fitting, then, to finish this series of blogs on Romans by casting our cares on our Loving Father:

Magnificent Father, when our lives get busy, one of the first casualties to go is time spent chatting with You. We pray for all those reading these words, don’t let any of us deviate from the privilege of conversing with You. As we seek your face may we know Your peace. Let us embody Your strength as we accept the news about our Messiah, Jesus. As we trust in Jesus and what He achieved for us by the cross, bring about obedience in us. We struggle together on behalf of those who risk their lives for Your gospel, please let their service be warmly received and rescue them from the ranks of stubborn Jesus refusers. Help us see that, through Jesus, you have placed in us the words of eternal life, how tragic to imagine could we ever keep Jesus to ourselves? Don’t let us squander such abundant fruit. Give us hearts that spill out because of what Jesus has done for us. Make our hearts pine for the wellbeing of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, regardless of where they are, or how different they are from us. Give us agony over the eternal destination of those we love most, may our love and care for them match Your care and affection for us. Unite us in the favour and protection of Jesus and in His name cast satan under our feet so we may trample him. Purify us by removing disruption and dissension caused by the unholy trinity of money, sex and power. Remake us with generosity in place of greed, holy wedded union, or satisfied and sexualy pure single-life, in place of godless sex, and deep humility in loving service to Jesus, instead of grasping for power. Replace our reluctance to get involved with a willingness to help others. Raise up willing workers from among us, who desire to tell people all about what Jesus has done, and make us all bold for Jesus. Amen

Long-Distance Love

At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. – Romans 15:25-27

Distance shouldn’t prevent us from expressing our love. Via Paul, the Macedonian and Achaian Christians sent aid money to help the holy ones in Jerusalem. This is one practical way we might demonstrate love, but it isn’t the only way. For instance, Paul wrote a letter of encouragement to the Romans, even though he couldn’t be with them in person.

Father, foster Your love within us, prompting us into action, for the benefit of our brothers and sisters who are in need—even those we may never lay eyes on this side of eternity.

Beggars

For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. – Romans 15:26-27 (ESV)

Have you recognised the debt you owe to God’s original chosen people? Even now we continue to benefit immensely from the Jewish people, since the Bible is their legacy—including the New Testament (with the possible exception being Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts). In Mark 7:25-28 we read of Jesus’ encounter with a non-Jewish woman:

But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (ESV)

The Jews are God’s legitimate children, eating bread at the table, while we who are Gentiles are the unworthy dogs, lapping up the crumbs at their feet. The Jews are recipients of preferential treatment, while the rest of us are their unwitting beneficiaries.

Father, what a privilege it is to call on You as our Dad. For this we owe a debt of gratitude to Your first chosen people, to whom belong the promised blessings of our saviour. May we be of service to Your people. Thank You for including us among Your True Israel. We are, all of us, beggars who depend on Jesus to engulf us with His favour, to shower us with His grace.

Righteous Prayer

I appeal to you, brothers, 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 service 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. – Romans 15:30-33 (ESV)

I thank God for you but, what I can say with the utmost confidence is, if you’ve prayed for me in my preparation of the Word, rest assured, you’ve done more for me than I’ve done for you. Your prayers make a huge difference. As I delved into Romans God exposed my heart. In particular, God showed me my sceptical attitude toward prayer. Scouring the internet, one of the most unflattering opinions of prayer I could find was this: Prayer, how to do nothing and feel like you are doing something. In some measure that resonates with my attitude towards prayer. Does prayer really make any difference?

James, the half-brother of Jesus, espouses a vastly different view of prayer, especially for those whose hands are clean (James 5:16):

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (ESV)

Prayer is a pathway to healing, that is, once we’ve laid bare our shortcomings before God and each other. Prayer is most effective for those who live right before God. Indeed, for them, prayer has great power. A far cry from the impotence suggested by secular society. Paul linked his welfare with the outcome of prayer, which is why he was so keen to solicit prayers from the gathering in Rome.

Father, praying to You is not a wasted effort. Especially when, by Your Spirit, You help us live up to the righteousness Jesus has procured for us. May we give prayer the attention and priority it deserves.

 

One God and Father

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.  – Malachi 2:10-11

We all originated with the one God, whose agreement we disrespect when we mistreat each other. Although Jesus is our refuge and He prepared the way for the LORD to dwell within us (by His Spirit), we disgrace ourselves and Jesus when we unite ourselves to other priorities.

Father of us all, thank You for making us and for keeping Your promise to bless us in Christ. We least resemble Your children when we live in conflict with our brothers and sisters. You love us and since Jesus is our sanctuary, the very reason You are able to take up residence in us, help us maintain purity.