Beware Boring Prayers.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning
them is for their salvation!
Paul’s views on predestination did not water down his spirit for evangelism. He looked deep into Heaven itself, but never failed to make practical applications on earth. Paul illustrates my Grandpa Marshall’s advice, “Keep your head in the clouds, but your feet on the ground.”
We will have to wait to have a full understanding of God’s predestination. Presently we can revel in it and mediate on it. At the same time, let us be about the task of winning people to the Master.
May God grant us the spirit of Paul: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them (Israel) is for their salvation!” Paul knew his people were guilty of rejecting Jesus. He could feel the weight of their condemnation, and was aching for them to receive the Gospel.
Paul realized honesty about Israel’s rejection of God was an explosive teaching. He knew the bombshell he was setting off among his kinsmen, but wanted them to know he was not happy about it. Paul was not gloating.
Paul’s heart was broken; he wanted to soften any sharpness that might be perceived in his words. In an effort to handle the subject as tenderly as possibly, the Apostle left off arguing in order to say once again how deeply he loved his people. The result was this classic verse on evangelism.
Romans 10:1a Brothers, my heart’s desire…
Paul mentioned his desire before he mentioned his prayer. Without yearning, prayer is an empty formula, a lifeless carcass. The essence of prayer is desire. Our supplications should be the offering of a soul ablaze.
A lack of earnestness begs God to deny our requests. Prayer is not a mechanical recitation, or a magical incantation; it does not gain its power merely through words spoken. “Vain repetition” does not sway Heaven.
A swelling from the heart is what makes prayer live. The power of prayer is in people’s hearts, not their mouths.
It is no coincidence Paul mentioned desire first when he discussed evangelism. Not many will be saved until our hearts are thrown into the work. True Christianity requires love for people who are lost.
We need the spirit of the aged Karen chief who was saved late in life. The man wanted to continue living for only one reason, often saying, “I cannot die till I see my brother converted.” His brother lived a day’s journey away. The chief was too feeble to walk, but would ride on the back of his Christian grandson to go tell the brother about Jesus. Whenever he was able, the old man would forget about his aching bones and make the trip.
May God grant us a burning desire to see people saved. At the same time, we must remember desire is not enough in and of itself. It must be translated into prayer.
Romans 10:1b …and prayer to God…
Wishing is not praying. Until presented to God, desires are merely fantasies. Prayer provides the power needed to fulfill our longings.
Never divorce desire and prayer. They belong together. Desire gives life to our praying, and praying gives results to our desire.
Paul knew God was Israel’s only hope. The Apostle had tried time after time to win his kin. He was not the kind of man who only prayed.
He put “legs to his prayers,” as should everyone else. Paul not only prayed for Israel; he also did all he could to accomplish their salvation.
Despite all his efforts, not many Israelites were being saved. Nevertheless, though much of his pleading had appeared to be in vain, Paul never gave up on prayer. Human efforts were failing, but he continued to plead before God. Disappointment did not keep him from prayer. In fact, failure may have driven him to plead with even greater desperation.
I have a preacher/friend whose brother is in a federal penitentiary. This prisoner is wrong not only with regard to his country, but also to God. He is lost. My friend pleads with God everyday to let his brother live long enough to be saved. He has often tried to win his brother. There is little more that can be done physically, but the effort can be carried on spiritually.
Pray without ceasing for your lost loved ones. The shortest distance between any two points is usually a straight line. However, sometimes the shortest distance to winning a person’s heart is by way of God’s throne.
Many victories are won in prayer long after exertion is exhausted. Though all else fail, never give up on prayer. Mothers, your children may demand you speak to them no more of Christ, but they cannot keep you from speaking to Christ of them. Wives, your husbands may be beyond talking to, but they are not past praying for. What looks hopeless in the human realm is often accomplished through prayer. With us a matter may look impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Romans 10:1c …concerning them is…
Yes, his burden was for Israel, the very people who were seeking to kill him. They wanted him dead; Paul loved them nevertheless. A litmus test of Christian character is how we respond to our enemies. God spare us from being Pharisees, people who love their friends and hate their enemies.
Even unbelievers are good to friends. One obvious mark of believers is; we love our enemies and pray for them that despitefully use us.
Romans 10:1d …for their salvation!
Paul could never move very far away from the word “saved.” He loved it. His life and ministry were summed up in the term. To Paul it was a wonderful word, describing mankind’s most desperate need.
Being saved is more important than escaping war and earthly sorrow. Salvation is greater than health or wealth, and superior to fleshly gratification. People’s greatest need is to be saved from the tyranny of sin’s power, and to be saved from the torment of sin’s penalty.
Paul knew that people everywhere were drowning in a sea of sin. The flames from a lake of fire were lapping at their feet. Nothing else mattered to Paul except helping snatch people from this danger. The Apostle recognized that people are sinners and therefore under a sentence of condemnation.
Lost people are drowning, unable to save themselves. Self-help courses cannot help dispel this problem. Government agencies are futile here. Salvation involves a complete metamorphosis.
Salvation is totally of the Lord because it entails completely remaking a person’s heart. Salvation is God reaching down into fallen humanity, and then lifting us up to the state He originally meant for us to have.
Being saved is not merely a sentimental change of mind or turning over a new leaf. It is more than positive thinking and possibility thinking. God himself must invade human history and bring about this change. And we, His church, have been commissioned to tell people that such a change is a possibility. Every fellowship of believers should be a “soul-saving station,” sending forth light to people in darkness.