The word of the day is “strive.” Why aren’t our individual prayers sufficient? After all, the Book of James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (OSB James, 5:16). If so, then why should James also say that we should pray for one another (James 5:16)?
Today in Romans 15:30-33, Paul writes, “Strive together with me in prayers to God for me” (vs. 30). Today we explore why Paul appeals for fervent prayers for him. And we learn the added power and benefits of p raying for one another.
Paul’s Concerns Require Striving Together in Prayer
In today’s reading, Paul closes his letter to the Romans. The apostle has finished his collection of the offering for the poor in Jerusalem. After delivering those funds personally, he hopes to visit the believers in Rome on his way to Spain. The apostle feels compelled to go to Jerusalem, though he says in Acts that “the Holy Spirit testifies in every city saying that chains and tribulations await me” (Acts 20:23). The apostle is so concerned about what will happen to him in Jerusalem that he asks the believers in Rome to join him in earnest prayers for him (vs. 30).
We might ask, doesn’t St. Paul have faith? He has been bold in his proclamation of the Gospel. The apostle has endured opposition, beatings, hardships, mortal dangers before. Doesn’t he know that the Lord will be with him? And that Lord will bring about the completion of the work begun in His Name? However, like the Lord Jesus, the apostle is almost sure to face hostility in the Holy City. Arrest, trial, flogging, and even death will likely greet him. Moreover, he is not sure that the Jewish Christians there will accept the offering from Gentile churches (vs. 31).
Striving in Prayer Like Wrestlers in a Ring
For these reasons, St. Paul calls on the believers in Rome to strive together with him in appeals to God. The root of the Greek word for “strive” means to contend as wrestlers fight fiercely in the public games. Thus, St. Paul urges the Romans to pray like Jacob did when he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:28) and like the Lord Jesus who prayed in the Garden in such anguish that his sweat became as great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). The prayers of the Roman believers are so crucial to him that he “exhorts” them; that is, he strongly urges them to join him in the urgent pleas to God.
Paul’s appeals for prayers demonstrate the importance of our prayers for and with one another. The scriptures are full of instructions for believers to pray for one another and examples of requests for such prayer. Such mutual appeals are the first and essential expression of our caring for one another. And the more desperate the need, the more fervent the supplication should be.
But why aren’t private supplications enough? When we pray for one another, we share one another’s burdens as we take them before the Throne of Grace. When we pray for one another, we amplify our appeals to God. And finally, when we pray for one another, we affirm the promise of who taught that our Heavenly Father would grant the requests of our joint petitions to God. The Lord said in Matthew, “… if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). The word “agree” here has the underlying meaning of being in harmony, and in that unity, call out to the Lord together (Strong’s #4856, 239). So then, we have good reason to ask for our fellow believers to pray for us even as we pray for them.