Romans 15:30–33 (NIV)
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
At first glance, this passage sounds normal, but it’s not. This is the only place in the entire Bible where Paul asks for prayer in a worried tone. He mentions the prayers of others for himself in three other places, but the feeling in different.
as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. — 2 Corinthians 1:11 (NIV)
for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. — Philippians 1:19 (NIV)
And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. — Philemon 1:22 (NIV)
Those are all upbeat; this passage is anything but. Paul is already dreading his impending arrest. The concurrent account in Acts 20:23 is even more foreboding.
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” (NIV)
But what just knocks me out is that, despite the pressure this is putting on Paul, he also asks for prayer that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there. That’s like asking for prayer for your heart surgery, and that your grandson will like his new tricycle. Those two things can’t be on the same level, right? How could a contribution possibly not be favorably received?
Because it’s from gentiles. The people in Jerusalem may not have come around yet on expanding the gospel to gentiles. To Paul, this issue was easily as important as his personal safety. We like to think of first century Christians as model Christians, but many of them had been raised as bigots.
Becoming Christian is not an instant cure for things like that.
Being a Christian is frustrating. It’s supposed to be frustrating. Our standards are rising, but our behavior can’t keep up. Take heart; Paul was frustrated too. Frustration is OK, even healthy. Denial isn’t.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. — Romans 7:15 (NIV)
Be honest with yourself.
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