An Expression of Paul's Personal Feelings
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself served God with His spirit. The greatest act of service that He ever performed was where He humbled Himself and became obedient to the death of the Cross. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:14). "Christ ... through the eternal spirit" does not necessarily mean the Holy Spirit, although it does not exclude the Holy Spirit, but rather describes the kind of service. It came of the spirit - from His spirit, and the verse says that the effect of His service on the Cross was to purge our consciences from dead works that we too might serve the living God as an act of worship.
The place of Paul's priestly service was "in the gospel of His Son." Paul was no priest ministering at a man made altar, ministering a sacrifice which could never take away sins. But he had an altar nevertheless: "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13:10). Paul has an altar in the gospel of the Son of God. That is our place of service, at the altar of the Cross of Christ. We are to stand and persuade sinners to come there and be cleansed. Our priestly service today is not a wafer, not a cup of wine. Our service today involves that for which those things stand: the Cross, His broken body.
"God is my witness ... that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you" (1:9-10).
This prayer is a most illuminating commentary on true prayer. Let us note its important characteristics:
Paul says he prays "without ceasing ... always." Paul probably reached more souls with his praying than with his preaching, for the apostle could never say, " preach without ceasing, I preach always," because there were times when he was laid on a bed of sickness or was in prison alone. There his preaching must cease, but his praying could go on, a part of his priestly service. He is thinking not only of his preaching, but of his praying, when he says, "I serve God." Prayer is a service to God in which you can serve God day and night continually. Luke's gospel speak of Anna, the widow who was in the temple serving God with prayers and fasting day and night (Luke 2:36-38). The modern world would say, "That is not service at all," but we who have come to know Him and to know that He answers prayer can realize that perhaps that is the greatest service we can render in the kingdom of God, in the church of God.
"Making mention of you." Paul, in the last chapter of Romans, mentions no less than twenty-six of the members of this church which he has never visited. There is power in personal prayer, in mentioning names.
Paul's prayer included various details. He even asked for a prosperous journey to Rome. There is no detail in life that is so trivial that we cannot make it a matter of prayer.
Paul recognized that the request must be in the will of God, including this phrase: "By the will of God." He is repeating the divine formula. "If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us" (1 John 5:14). This prayer of Paul breathes the very spirit of his life, following the pattern of Christ who said, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39).
His prayer was not dictatorial. Paul desired that he might go to Rome, but he made no attempt to dictate to God by what means he should go. He was willing to accomplish this "by any means" - just as long as he got to Rome. Perhaps Paul looked forward to going there with friends in a ship. When he finally went, it was as a political prisoner, wearing a chain on his wrist, and yet, he got there!
He was not playing with words. Paul could say, "For God is my witness" that he prays for them unceasingly. It is a great thing to call upon God to witness that one's prayer life is genuine. This is a part of the Christian life where there can exist much sham, because God alone witnesses it, other men do not. In public, men may hear us pray and conclude we are remarkable in prayer. But their conclusion might be different, if they could only see us as God sees us.
~Alva J. McCain~
(continued with # 14 - "Paul's Longing")