Select Wisdom Brand

Click the image to watch the video.
Scroll down for more options.



Urgent Prayer Requests from Paul

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 15:30–33

Paul, the great apostle and missionary for Jesus Christ, keenly recognized his need of prayer and repeatedly implored God’s people to pray for him. Today we look at the concerns he shared and the lessons we can take from them.


More than 200 years ago, a woman was riding in a stagecoach. Sitting across from her was an older gentleman. At some point in the journey, she began to hum a favorite hymn she had learned in church. Suddenly she noticed that this man had begun to weep, tears were rolling down his cheeks. The woman apologized if she had offended him and asked what was wrong. He said, “Ma’am, my name is Robert Robinson, and I wrote that hymn you were humming several years ago. The words now haunt me because of my disobedience to Christ. I haven’t been able to sing that song for a long time.” The Lord used that conversation to bring Robert Robinson back into fellowship with the Lord—he was able to sing glory and praise to God once again.[1]

Some of the lyrics to his hymn, which we are still singing today go like this:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

When we think of the apostle Paul, we naturally think of a man who was beyond distraction from his mission—a man who would never think of quitting his ministry, a man who was consistently obedient to the Lord. We would expect Paul to sing songs of loudest praise without any problem, every day of his life.

The truth is, Paul knew his own weaknesses and his need for the grace of God to be at work in his life. In fact, Paul is about to ask the church in Rome to pray for him, that he might stay the course and continue serving Christ faithfully.

As we set sail again on our Wisdom Journey in Romans 15, we arrive at verse 30, where Paul writes this:

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.

This is a very strong appeal for prayer on his behalf. In fact, the words, “I appeal to you” can be translated “I beg you,” or “I urge you.” One writer said the word Paul uses is like sending up a flare, an emergency signal.[3]

Paul goes even further than that when he writes, “Strive together with me in your prayers.” “Strive together” is a compound word in Greek—sunagōnizomai. You can see in it our English word agonize. Paul is asking people to agonize with him in prayer.

This is not a prayer request that is limited to a prayer meeting once a week. This is a request that is meant to stay on your heart and mind throughout the day.

Paul is not vague with his prayer request either. Starting in verse 31, he gets very specific. He gives the Roman believers three prayer requests.

His first prayer request is for safety. He writes in the first part of verse 31, “[Pray] that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea.”

Remember, Paul was public enemy number 1. He was Israel’s most wanted criminal, so to speak. So, as Paul planned for his upcoming trip to Jerusalem, he understood that he was heading into danger. Frankly, he was walking back into a hurricane.

Paul’s first prayer request, then, is for his safety. There is nothing wrong about praying for that today, beloved.

Paul’s second prayer request is for his service. He writes here in verse 31, “That my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.”

Remember, the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church was uncomfortable—prone to hot debate and disagreement. Paul had unbelieving Jews who wanted to kill him and believing Jews who were upset with him because of his ministry to Gentiles.

Paul is hoping the financial offering he will be delivering to the church in Jerusalem will help heal the disunity and encourage a fresh commitment to love and unity in the church. That is the reason he asks the Roman believers to pray that his service on behalf of Jerusalem will be acceptable to the saints.

You might wonder whether his prayer was answered? Yes, it was. Luke records the event in Acts 21:17, where he writes, “When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly.” So far, so good.

But then Luke writes in verse 19, “After greeting them, he [Paul] related … the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.” You might be saying to yourself, “Paul, you could have just left that part out!” But no, Paul knew the church in Jerusalem needed to know this. They needed to grow in their understanding of the grace of God.

Thankfully, Luke reports, “And when they heard it, they glorified God” (verse 20). So, Paul’s second prayer request was answered as he had hoped.

Finally, Paul’s third prayer request is for his own spirit. He writes in Romans 15:32, “so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.” Paul considers the Roman church a safe harbor, and he cannot wait to sail into it and be refreshed.

However, Acts informs us that Paul is arrested soon after he arrives in Jerusalem. Then, following two years in custody, he finally arrives in Rome—not as a missionary pioneer, but as a prisoner.

And how did the church in Rome receive him? Well, sad to say, only a few believers came to meet him. The rest were too afraid to associate with Paul, a prisoner in chains surrounded by Roman guards. They feared they too could suffer persecution if they identified with Paul.[4]

Was Paul bitter about his cool reception from the church in Rome? Well, listen to what Paul later writes in his final letter to Timothy, as he is again imprisoned in Rome:

All who are in Asia turned away from me … [but then Paul writes] May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me. (2 Timothy 1:15-17)

So, Paul was refreshed after all. Not by the assembly, but by this one man, Onesiphorus, who risked his own safety and that of his family to visit Paul. So, did Paul lack joy? No. That prayer request was answered through the faithful ministry of presence and spiritual encouragement of Onesiphorus.

Maybe you are serving the Lord right now and you are hurt and frustrated by a church family that seems unconcerned and unloving. Well, do not overlook the faithful and loyal love of just one person or one family who cares about your needs. Do not become bitter because of the larger church. Thank God for this one person.

And with that, Paul closes this section with these words: “May the God of peace be with you all. Amen” (Romans 15:33). With this customary Jewish benediction, Paul points to the peace of God that is able to blend Jew and Gentile into one harmonious body. We can surely say “Amen” to that!

Paul faced danger, conflict, abandonment, and imprisonment. Nonetheless, the peace of God was with him. And he did not quit. Paul never got on a stagecoach to hear a woman singing a song that caused him tears of regret. He was committed to singing praise to God.

And so today, beloved, let us admit our tendency to become discouraged and our need for prayer and for the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. And let us sing some of those lyrics today from that famous hymn:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

[1] This is a synthesis of various accounts of the story. 

[2] Robert Robinson, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

[3] Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans: Volume 4 (Eerdmans, 1964), 108.

[4] Ibid., 110.

Add a Comment

We hope this resource blessed you. Our ministry is EMPOWERED by your prayer and ENABLED by your financial support.