Romans 15:30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
This verse has probably been used by every missionary trying to raise support funds! That’s almost ironic, because the verse says nothing about money, but focuses solely on prayer. That said, the vast majority of missionaries do understand the importance of prayer support. I would almost go so far as to say there can be no effective missions work without it. I say almost, because it ultimately does not depend on human activity, even prayer, but on God. However, it would be difficult to overstate the importance of prayer. There is a difference in nuance between the English and Japanese translations of this verse. Going from the Japanese to English, it comes out as, “Brothers, I earnestly make a request by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of God: exert all your strength to pray with me.” The focus is not on “pray for me,” it is on prayer itself. Paul then goes on to mention specific prayer points that do involve him, but the focus is on the work to be done. It is worth noting that Paul isn’t depending on others to do his praying for him; he will be exerting himself in prayer as well. One of the important facets of prayer is that it takes the focus off of us and our abilities and places it on God. A few years ago the comic strip, Rose is Rose, had a very insightful Sunday strip. Two of the characters in the strip are a little boy and his guardian angel. On that day the angel is telling the boy how he had an enormous amount of work to get done in 24 hours, beyond his ability, so he spent 23 hours in prayer in order to get it all done in the remaining hour. Our activities are important, but they aren’t more important than prayer. Anyone who says they don’t have time to pray doesn’t understand prayer itself, how to pray, their own limitations, or the power of God. It is entirely possible, and even vital, to be in an attitude of prayer even while you are physically active. We still have a lot to learn about prayer!
Last week I was asked to give the short message at a monthly interdenominational prayer breakfast, and I spoke on “Praying for Leaders.” I shared my own experience of coming to Omura in 1981 with a local church in America that was praying regularly for us. However, that church dissolved a few years later over the failures of the pastor. I’m sure there were still individuals praying for us, but not an organized group. At the time I frankly didn’t think much of what it meant for us, though I had been praying for that church in what they were going through. In just a few years, however, I lost my focus on why I was here, to the point that the church work became secondary or worse in my priorities. It is probably no accident that we also went through considerable family turmoil during that period. God was faithful, but I don’t know how faithful I was! In His grace God not only got my attention, He also connected us with a particular home fellowship of an entirely different American church, and they prayed for us even more faithfully than the first church had. Things really turned around! That was quite a few years ago now, and the majority of those people are now in heaven, but the Lord has used the Internet to raise up even more people to pray for us, and I am deeply grateful. Given the choice between financial support and prayer support, I’d choose prayer support every time. God is never strapped for money, but the Body of Christ is bound together by prayer.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me pray for others even as I desire they pray for me. Help me be faithful to pray for leaders, even as You had me talk about last week. I let that slide too easily! May I fulfill the place You have for me in Your family, through prayer and every other way, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!