When we step out to serve the Lord we come under spiritual attack. Youre not just imagining that. Its true, you are. But the answer is not to hide your faith or do nothing for God and hope the devil doesnt notice you. The answer is to learn to pray for one another. This is the truth Paul models for us in this brief passage. We hear him asking believers in Rome to agonize with him in prayer in order to spiritually prepare the way for his mission. He needs protection from hostile unbelievers and deceived believers. He knows hes headed into trouble so hes marshalling prayer warriors to provide a prayer-covering for the mission. Hes convinced that if sufficient prayer is not offered hes likely to fall into hostile hands. He could be assassinated or arrested and executed, and he realizes he may also face stiff opposition from some in the Jerusalem church. Legalism had gained a strong foothold there in spite of some formal discussions that had been held among church leaders on that topic (Ac 11:1-18; 15:1-3; Gal 1:11-19; 2:1-14). But the dangers he faced didnt immobilize him. They focused him. He felt God wanted him to go, so he went and though his trip wasnt uneventful (Ac 21-28), the prayers that were offered were answered
more amazingly than most people realize.
What does Paul say? (Ro 15:20-33)
Verses 30-32 (my paraphrase): Because we serve the same Lord and because the Holy Spirit has placed in our hearts a love for one another, I urgently appeal to you to join me as I agonize in prayer over my upcoming journey to Israel. Please pray that Ill be rescued from those in Judea who have rejected the Messiah, and also pray that the financial gift Ill be bringing from the churches in Greece to help the impoverished believers in Jerusalem will be well received, since many in the church there still walk in legalism and misunderstand the righteousness of faith which I preach (Ac 21:17-22). Its possible they will reject me or the gift I bring. And please pray that after this mission is complete, if its Gods will (Ro 1:10), Ill come to Rome full of joy and be spiritually refreshed when Im there with you.
What did Paul ask them to do?
Paul uses a remarkable word here. He doesnt just ask them to pray, he asks them to agonize with him in prayers to God on his behalf (v.30).
(sunagonisasthai): the root word agon means the place where a fierce contest is held until one opponent is defeated. The picture is a place where a crowd has gathered and two people are fighting it out. The word is used for a wrestling match or a boxing match (1Co 9:25).
Its clear that hes asking them to join him in a spiritual battle. Hes asking them to enter into a season of intense intercession for him and the people he will meet. He wants them to pray until the enemys plan to attack him or the Jerusalem church is defeated. He believes that what takes place when he arrives in Israel will depend on whether or not they pray. Please notice what he doesnt say: well, Im headed to Israel but as we all know God is in control, so whatever He wants to happen is going to happen. Hes not fatalistic at all.
Why do we pray? (Mt 6:5-13)
1) Not to inform Him (v8)
2) Not to change His mind (v10)
3) But to bring His will to earth (v10; 7:7)
4) To be protected from the enemy (v13)
5) Because we want to see this rebellious world brought into submission to Him because Hes the rightful ruler (v13)
6) Because only He has the power to accomplish this (v13)
7) And because we want to see Him glorified (v13)
What does Paul want others to pray?
Isnt one person praying enough? Certainly God hears the prayers of one person praying in faith, but it is also true that when believers stand together in agreement the effect is amplified in matters of spiritual warfare. Demonic strongholds do not give up easily. Anyone who has dealt with them knows how resistant they can be. This is not a game, there is real warfare taking place in the spiritual realm.
Mt 18:19 Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
What do we learn from Paul?
Paul is showing us how to establish the Lords protection when we step out in ministry. We need to:
1) Learn to pray accurately.
There isnt just one type of prayer. We must learn to pray differently in different situations.
2) Develop a team of prayer partners who will pray with and for us. There is an increase in power when there is agreement in prayer.
3) Not be presumptuous, but carefully stay in the Lords directive will
Notice how sensitive Paul is to this (Ro 1:9, 10; 15:32).
We can get ourselves into situations where God didnt lead us.
4) Avoid areas of deliberate disobedience (hidden sins). These remove our protective covering and expose us and those under our covering to attack.
Why should we pray for each other? (Ro 15:30)
1) Because we serve the same Lord and want to see His kingdom advanced
What you do for Jesus matters to me. Were on the same team.
2) Because the Holy Spirit has placed in our hearts a love for one another.
Php 2:1, 2
if there is any (coming to help), if there is any (tender speaking) of love, if any (sharing in common) of Spirit, if any (deep inner feelings) of compassion and affection
make my joy complete by being humble and not looking down on others, choosing to love all the Body of Christ, realizing you are all full of the same life of God, and being unified in purpose, pursuing the same goal.
It takes a certain level of maturity to function in this. On the one hand we must be aware of the danger involved, but on the other we must minister without fear. Immature believers can be trapped in one of two extremes. Either they are totally ignorant of spiritual warfare and can get blindsided by an opponent they didnt know was there, or they become immobilized by fear. What Paul shows us is a mature believer carefully taking precautions to deal with the opposition he expects, yet he continues to move ahead with his mission.
Was Paul rescued?
He had prophetic warnings as he approached Jerusalem that danger was ahead (Ac 20: 22, 23; 21:4, 10-14).
Unbelieving Jews were hostile (Ac 21:27)
Legalistic Christians were hostile (Ac 21:20-26)
He was arrested and held in Caesarea for two years (Ac 24:27)
He appealed to Caesar and was taken to Rome for trial where he waited for two years in rented quarters (Ac 28:30, 31) (60-62AD).
Paul felt bound by Is 52:15 (Ro 15:20, 21) not to stay in Rome, but God wanted him there (Ac 27:23, 24) and He wanted to give Nero a chance to repent.
Paul was released and spent another four years in mission work until he was re-arrested at Troas because of Alexander the coppersmith from Ephesus, who apparently heard he was there, had him captured and turned him into the authorities (2 Tim 4:13-21) (66AD). He was then sent back to Rome and executed during Neros vicious persecution (67AD).
Where are we today?
Paul faced the possibility of persecution at the hands of unbelievers and rejection at the hands of so-called believers. Many in America today feel we face the same sort of dangers. Atheism is becoming more militant and outspoken, and some churches and denominations are moving farther away from the truth of Gods Word. Pauls solution was to call on like-minded believers asking them to agonize with him in prayer. He recognized the battle ahead would be decided spiritually. The enemy he faced was not human, it was a spiritual force that used humans (Eph 6:12). He was also confident that the spiritual weapons God has given us would win the battle (2Co 10:4). He knew how to fight. He knew how to push back the opposition and make way for Gods breakthrough.
The same principles still work today. The solution to Pauls dilemma and ours is the same. We have no reason to be afraid, but we do have reason to be alarmed. So its time we learned to cover one another in prayer.
1) When youre in trouble who do you call to pray with you? Why do you call that person?
2) Have you seen God deliver you from trouble when people prayed? Tell us what happened.