Here we have, I. St. Paul’s desire of a share in the prayers of the Romans for him, expressed very earnestly, Rom. 15:30-32. Though Paul was a great apostle, yet he begged the prayers of the meanest Christians, not here only, but in several other of the epistles. He had prayed much for them, and this he desires as the return of his kindness. Interchanging prayers is an excellent token of the interchanging of loves. Paul speaks like one that knew himself, and would hereby teach us how to value the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous. How careful should we be lest we do any thing to forfeit our interest in the love and prayers of god’s praying people!
1. Observe why they must pray for him. He begs it with the greatest importunity. He might suspect they would forget him in their prayers, because they had no personal acquaintance with him, and therefore he urges it so closely, and begs it with the most affectionate obtestations, by all that is sacred and valuable: I beseech you, (1.) “For the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. He is my Master, I am going about his work, and his glory is interested in the success of it: if you have any regard to Jesus Christ, and to his cause and kingdom, pray for me. You love Christ, and own Christ; for his sake then do me this kindness.” (2.) “For the love of the Spirit. As a proof and instance of that love which the Spirit works in the hearts of believers one to another, pray for me; as a fruit of that communion which we have one with another by the Spirit though we never saw one another. If ever you experienced the Spirit’s love to you, and would be found returning your love to the Spirit, be not wanting in this office of kindness.”
2. How they must pray for him: That you strive together. (1.) That you strive in prayer. We must put forth all that is within us in that duty; pray with fixedness, faith, and fervency; wrestle with God, as Jacob did; pray in praying, as Elias did (Jas. 5:17), and stir up ourselves to take hold on God (Isa. 64:7); and this is not only when we are praying for ourselves, but when we are praying for our friends. True love to our brethren should make us as earnest for them as sense of our own need makes us for ourselves. (2.) That you strive together with me. When he begged their prayers for him, he did not intend thereby to excuse his praying for himself; no, “Strive together with me, who am wrestling with God daily, upon my own and my friends’ account.” He would have them to ply the same oar. Paul and these Romans were distant in place, and likely to be so, and yet they might join together in prayer; those who are put far asunder by the disposal of God’s providence may yet meet together at the throne of his grace. Those who beg the prayers of others must not neglect to pray for themselves.
3. What they must beg of God for him. He mentions particulars; for, in praying both for ourselves and for our friends, it is good to be particular. What wilt thou that I shall do for thee? So says Christ, when he holds out the golden sceptre. Though he knows our state and wants perfectly, he will know them from us. He recommends himself to their prayers, with reference to three things:—(1.) The dangers which he was exposed to: That I may be delivered from those that do not believe in Judea. The unbelieving Jews were the most violent enemies Paul had and most enraged against him, and some prospect he had of trouble from them in this journey; and therefore they must pray that God would deliver him. We may, and must, pray against persecution. This prayer was answered in several remarkable deliverances of Paul, recorded Acts 21:1-24:27. (2.) His services: Pray that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints. Why, was there any danger that it would not be accepted? Can money be otherwise than acceptable to the poor? Yes, there was some ground of suspicion in this case; for Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles, and as the unbelieving Jews looked spitefully at him, which was their wickedness, so those that believed were shy of him upon that account, which was their weakness. He does not say, “Let them choose whether they will accept it or no; if they will not, it shall be better bestowed;” but, “Pray that it may be accepted.” As God must be sought unto for the restraining of the ill will of our enemies, so also for the preserving and increasing of the good will of our friends; for God has the hearts both of the one and of the other in his hands. (3.) His journey to them. To engage their prayers for him, he interests them in his concerns (Rom. 15:32): That I may come unto you with joy. If his present journey to Jerusalem proved unsuccessful, his intended journey to Rome would be uncomfortable. If he should not do good, and prosper, in one visit, he thought he should have small joy of the next: may come with joy, by the will of God. All our joy depends upon the will of God. The comfort of the creature is in every thing according to the disposal of the Creator.
II. Here is another prayer of the apostle for them (Rom. 15:33): Now the God of peace be with you all, Amen. The Lord of hosts, the God of battle, is the God of peace, the author and lover of peace. He describes God under this title here, because of the divisions among them, to recommend peace to them; if God be the God of peace, let us be men of peace. The Old-Testament blessing was, Peace be with you; now, The god of peace be with you. Those who have the fountain cannot want any of the streams. With you all; both weak and strong. To dispose them to a nearer union, he puts them altogether in this prayer. Those who are united in the blessing of God should be united in affection one to another.