PRAYER FOR THE MINISTRY
Romans 15:30: “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;”
The words “Now I beseech you” are a plea for prayer. The word “beseech” (parakaleo) means, “to call to one's side, call for, to summon.” It is a present active indicative verb. This means that Paul is calling the Roman Christians to stand beside him in continuous prayer for his ministry. He is not just asking for a single act of prayer but for what we would call “prayer warriors” to stand with him in the ministry.
Paul said to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 1:11: “Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” The word “helping” is a compound word meaning “to work with, or to under gird.” A pastor or missionary or anyone ministering the Word of God is in the forefront of the battle with Satan and the unseen forces of evil. Prayer can make the difference between success and failure. It can make the difference between staying in the ministry for the long run or experiencing burnout. When we stand before the Lord at the Judgment seat of Christ where rewards will be given, the discovery of the importance of prayer in the work of God will then be realized. I believe there will be a lot of surprised people. The preacher will be surprised that he was not nearly as responsible for the harvest as he thought. And the people who prayed will realize that their prayers counted for a lot more than they realized.
The words “for the Lord Jesus sake” tell us the reason for the ministry both of preaching the Word and prayer for those who preach the Word. John Gill says: “for Christ's sake; whose servant he was, and in whose cause he was engaged, whose Gospel he preached, and whose glory he sought; and therefore, if they had any regard for Christ, and the good of his interest, he beseeches them that they would pray for the continuance of his life and usefulness; since for him to live was for the good of the churches of Christ. . .”
Griffith Thomas comments on “for the Lord Jesus sake” in the words, “by the feelings toward Christ that actuates you.” He goes on to say, “The cause of Christ was undoubtedly involved in the Apostle’s circumstances, and any failure in his mission would be taken to reflect on the Master Himself.” Any failure in the true work of God reflects in a sense on Christ himself. The preacher says, “God led me here. I am to do his work in this place.” Then he leaves without any evidence of good accomplished. Well, did he make a mistake? Was God in his coming? Isn’t God powerful enough to overcome the circumstances that we blame for our failure? Paul is recognizing that any failure on his part will reflect upon the Lord. Therefore he solicits the prayers of praying people who will be co-laborers with him and they together will accomplish a work that will not bring shame upon the cause of Christ.
Then Paul adds, “and for the love of the Spirit.” Griffith Thomas’ comment on this is: “This seems to mean the love of God which the Holy Spirit sheds abroad in the hearts of all Christians (Rom. 5:5). The reference would thus be to the love which Christians have one to another, and it is termed ‘the love of the Spirit’ because it is produced in the heart by the Spirit of God.”
Paul knew the love that resides in all believers in general for one another and their love for him in particular. First John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” A man who has this love in him that has been shed abroad by the Holy Spirit, has something in him that will respond to an appeal like Paul is making here. The love that the Holy Spirit has given me for my brethren energizes in me the will and strength to respond to needs that they have.
Then Paul says, “that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” The words “strive together” is made up of two words. “Sun” which means “with” and “agonizomai” which means “to enter a contest: contend in the gymnastic games, to contend with adversaries, to fight.” The picture is a contest or a battle. If it is a contest we can enter the contest through prayer and play a crucial role in the outcome. It is a striving. Striving is tiring. People want to play, not work. So many times we hear a request for prayer and get tired just listening to it. I wonder who makes us feel that way? Are we going to succumb to Satan and allow him to defeat us through our physical feelings, or, are we going to enter into the battle with our pastor’s and missionaries and come away with the victory? Listen, if you listen to your body, you won’t do much praying. Praying is physically and mentally exhausting. All you have to do to realize how much Satan affects you feelings is to see yourself on a golf course or some other sport you enjoy and think of how short the long time is!! And you pay no attention to the tiring efforts of the game. Yet simply getting on our knees and spending time in prayer to God takes a lot of energy and effort.
Next Paul says, “with me.” Paul was a man of prayer. It was Paul who said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Paul says in Romans 1:9: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;” The words “without ceasing” does not mean that Paul never gets off his knees in prayer for them. It is like saying Paul never quit praying for them. He may have missed a day without praying like he missed days at times without food. But he didn’t quit eating. And Paul never ceased to pray for those Christians in Rome. The Roman Christians and Paul were separated by geographical distance but they were united at the Throne of Grace in prayer for the same cause (Heb. 4:16).
Then Paul says, “to God for me.” Paul did not hesitate to recognize his weakness to accomplish the task assigned him of the Lord. He did not mind exposing his need to praying friends. If there is strength in the ministry it is of the Lord. Those of us who are ministers of his word need to constantly realize this and form a team of Christians who will pray with us and for us. The victory is the Lord’s.
May the Lord bless you.