There is a moment in Pauls letter to the Romans, in chapter 15.. He is excited about visiting Rome… he just can’t wait, he had wanted to go to Rome and be with the church there for so long, and an opportunity was coming for him to do just that. But before he went to Rome, he would first go to Jerusalem.
We read about this in Acts 20, when Paul is talking to the elders in Ephesus, and he says this… “I am compelled by the Spirit… the Greek word he uses is “deo ho pneuma” which means to be wrapped up in the Spirit, to go to Jerusalem… things were going great in the church in Ephesus… there was fruit… people were changing, they were growing… but the Holy Spirit clear as day told him, go to Jerusalem.
But Jerusalem was not the most friendly place for a christian to go.
It is in this conversation with the elders, recorded in Acts that Paul says these words: “I am constrained by the Spirit, NOT KNOWING what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that IMPRISONMENT and AFFLICTION wait for me.”
then he says this:
“BUT… I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. It is the verse Pastor Chilly usedwhen he announced to the whole church that he would be transitioning out of the role of Pastor of Courage church.
So that is where his mind is, at the time of writing this letter to the Romans. He wants to visit them, he is planning to visit them, but first, he has been wrapped up by the Spirit and compelled to go to Jerusalem where he believes imprisonment and affliction await him… so he sends these words to the Romans… He says in Romans 15:30:
“I urge you, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”
He knew that the people in Rome were not going to necessarily join him in Jerusalem. But he needed them. He needed to know they had his back, and so he says this… Join me in my struggle, by praying.
We join people in their struggle when we pray for them. We are locking arm in arm with the hurting, the broken, the lonely, the lost… we are locking arm in arm with the person waiting to hear back about that test result, or waiting to hear back about if they got the job they applied for.
We are locking arm in arm with the other pastors and churches in our city… with the missionaries we are sending to other cities and other nations.
We are coming beside people, where they are, and fighting on their behalf.
The people of our city need people who will fight along side them. They need people who will lock, arm in arm with them and let them know, “you are not alone.”
I love what the new American commentary says about this moment. It says:
“The Roman Christians were one with Paul in their love for Christ. This provided the essential motive for their entering into the problem he faced. An additional motive was the love inspired by the Spirit. Awareness of a fellow believer’s difficult situation will move the authentic Christian to join that person in prayer.”
Are we one? Are we all members of one body, joined together by our love for Christ? Fighting for each other. Sharing in each others burdens and lightening each others loads?
Are we struggling with each other in prayer?
For me, its always about the tangible. About the practical. About how we meet the physical needs… if someone is hungry, you feed them. If they are thirsty, you give them something to drink. If they are in a fight, you stand next to them, or even in front of them. But the bible says so many times and in so many ways that even though there will be times to tangibly take action, this is how we fight for people. We do it by prayer.
Ole Hallesby says in his book, prayer: “As far as I can see, prayer has been ordained only for the helpless…. Prayer and helplessness are inseparable. Only he who is truly helpless can truly pray.”
Prayer is a sign of utter and complete dependency on God. It should be an outflow of that. Of how lost we are on our own. Of how weak we are on our own.
Romans 12:15 says “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!”
Prayer is just that. It’s crying “Abba Father.” It’s a desperation for our Father. It’s complete dependency on Jesus for the things that we can never ever maneuver in our own selves. It’s the young child who is so dependent on his parents for everything… Who is completely lost without them. Jesus says that unless you turn and become like a child (Matthew 18:1-3), then you can’t even enter the kingdom of God. Children are dependent on God. And God says if you want to be strong… You have to be weak.
You have to know that without him you are nothing. But he can do anything. And he gave us the church because as a body, together, we can do so much more… He is saying, are you not strong enough?
Are you not strong enough? Maybe by yourself you aren’t, but together you are. Together you are the church. My redemptive plan to save humanity.
Together you are a body. Together you are my bride.
I know for me… If someone has a problem that is bigger than themself… and they come to me to help solve it… if it is bigger than them odds are it is bigger than me too. yet Jesus says (Matthew 18:19) that when any two agree on earth and ask anything, it will be done for them.
And he starts by saying “Again I say to you…”
Jesus is saying this over and over and over. Because he works in settings like these. When people come together in his name.
But they have to ask.
That’s why we come together. To ask. To take our petitions before God as a body.
I got a text message this morning from Zack. He had some swelling on his face so he went into an urgent care… If you know Zack, it must have been alarming him if he actually took himself in… But they sent him to the Emergency room and he is there now… He is always the most faithful guy, he’s always here, he’s always helping. He is our friend. So want to make sure we are praying for him tonight. I want us to struggle on his behalf.
And like I said, I am all about the tangible. It’s been killing me all that I haven’t been able to get to Royal Oak yet to see him… And he has only been there a few hours.
Paul knew that the petitions of the Romans would only help him. They didn’t need to be in the same room or even in the same country… they just needed to agree on earth together.