A Prayer of Thanks
8First, I thank God in the name of Jesus Christ for all of you. I do this because people everywhere in the world are talking about your faith. 9God has seen how I never stop praying for you, while I serve him with all my heart and tell the good news about his Son.
10In all my prayers, I ask God to make it possible for me to visit you. 11I want to see you and share with you the same blessings that God's Spirit has given me. Then you will grow stronger in your faith. 12What I am saying is that we can encourage each other by the faith that is ours.
13 My friends, I want you to know that I have often planned to come for a visit. But something has always kept me from doing it. I want to win followers to Christ in Rome, as I have done in many other places.
When I read this I’m overawed by the faithfulness of Paul in his prayers. The Christians there had not come to faith through Paul, and he had not met most of them. Yet he never stopped praying for them.
How often do we allow the pressures of life to become an excuse for our lack of prayer? Yet look at Paul. He had stresses of all kinds. How often do our prayers centre around our own needs and those of people we are close to? Paul prayed for Christians everywhere to grow in faith.
He also prayed for a very practical matter – that God would make it possible for him to visit them, so that they could be encouraged by sharing their faith. This would be particularly meaningful to him since they had become Christians quite apart from him, and their faith would not reflect anything that he had taught them. Notice, too, how inclusive he is here. He has no desire for a homogeneous church. The richness of God’s grace is seen in the variety of people who believe and come together around Jesus Christ. Is your church like that?
God answered his prayers, and he did go to Rome, but not under the circumstances he may have imagined when he wrote this letter. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem. After two years in prison he had the opportunity to appeal to Caesar. He was taken to Rome as a prisoner.
The full story is much more complicated and exciting than that. You can read it in Acts 21:27 – 28:31. The last we hear of Paul he was staying in a rented house in Rome and welcoming “everyone who came to see him. He bravely preached about God’s kingdom and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ, and no one tried to stop him” (Acts 28:31).
Written by Rob Longley and Annabel Robinson.
Lord Jesus, thank you for Paul and his courage and commitment. Thank you for all that he did and all that he wrote. All these years later we benefit directly from this. Show us how we can play our part in passing on your story. Amen.