Pray to the God of Hope
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Verse 13 is a kind and gracious benediction, one of Scripture’s richest verses. Fortunately, its wealth was not exhausted on the Romans. It has meaning for us, too.
Speaking of hope at the end of verse 12 caused Paul to raise a prayer to the God of hope. The Apostle prayed God would grant believers the virtues that it is their duty to possess.
The Bible often links accountability and dependence. God commands us to exercise traits only He can give, thereby making sure we come to Him in prayer.
In the believer, every spiritual grace is of divine origin. Our spiritual garments are never homespun; we are divinely clothed from head to foot.
Rom. 15:13a Now may the God of hope. . .
In this prayer by Paul we learn much about the blessings we are meant to receive. We first notice the Person who blesses. God is the Fountain from which all genuine hope flows. In His grace, God allows all humans to share a portion of hope, this respite from trouble. The lost person’s hope is a small, dwarfed version of the real thing, but it still puts a little sparkle in his or her life.
A hopeless life is a bitter life. When hope is gone, the heart is completely broken. We often say, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” It would also be proper to say, “Where there’s hope, there’s life.”
When France capitulated to Hitler in World War 2, Britain faced her darkest hour. Churchill called a cabinet meeting. Britain was alone, a painful truth that was etched in the faces of the cabinet members. They were in despair. Some wanted to give up the struggle. Churchill, whom secular history may deem the most important person of the twentieth century, restored hope by saying, “Gentlemen, I find it rather inspiring.”
May God give us Christians grace to show no less courage in our spiritual warfare than Churchill showed in the political. No situation is hopeless for the Christ-follower. We may grow hopeless, but it will always be our own fault. Hope is something we can always have.
For a believer, hope refers to confidence for the future springing from faith in God’s promises. Biblical hope refers not to idle dreams or wishful thinking, but instead to absolute realities. Hope refers to an absolute assurance; we know all will finally be well. Faith rests on the “It is finished” spoken by Jesus. Hope confides in the “It is finished” to be spoken by the Holy Spirit at the end of His work.
Patrick Henry, in a rare moment of weakness, once said, “I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.” This perfectly describes human hopelessness and futility. As D. L. Moody would say, “This poor earth is a wretched vessel.”
It is easy to yield to despair in this world. Cynicism and pessimism are natural. Even believers sometimes slip into this negativism unwittingly.
I read of a church that once had an emergency meeting to discuss a major dilemma. The chairman began with prayer, addressing the Lord as “Almighty and eternal God, whose grace is sufficient for all things.” He then proceeded to use other phrases about God we commonly use in prayer. Immediately after saying “Amen,” this same man introduced the business at hand by saying, “Gentlemen, the situation in this church is completely hopeless, and nothing can be done.”
May God lift us to a higher level than this. Our Savior deserves more trust than this. He is so trustworthy that He is given the title “God of hope.”
For believers the future is as bright as the promises of God. As I often say, “For believers, the best is always yet to come.”
“God of hope” is one of the most amazing titles ever applied to the Lord. People never pin their hopes on someone they have offended. They look instead to people they have pleased. The title “God of hope,” however, depicts God, the One whom we have injured most, as the object and source of our hope. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. . .”
Rom. 15:13b . . .fill you with all. . .
We notice in this prayer, second, God’s blessings are abundant. God lavishly pours His goodness on us. The Lord is not skimpy. He does not give a mere taste, nor a momentary thrill. He desires to provide us a fullness.
God made our hearts. He knows their every nook and cranny. The Lord is fully aware of every vacuum within us that needs to be filled. He wants to fill us until we are saturated, flooded, and overflowing with inner delight.
When we come to God in prayer, we need to enlarge our desires. Come asking spiritual things worthy of the King of Kings. Do not be content with a poor, meager Christian existence.
Usually, the more favors we receive from certain individuals, the less we have to expect from them, and the more embarrassed we are to ask of them. However, God’s willingness and ability to give is infinite. Thus we are justified in putting our hope in Him. We can never weary Him, for we are His delight. We can never exhaust Him, for His supplies are infinite.
Rom. 15:13c . . .joy and peace. . .
Third, in this prayer we see the particulars of blessing: joy and peace. There is variety in Christian living. Sometimes fellowship with God is demonstrated in joy, at other times in peace. Joy refers to delight springing from faith in the promises of God. Peace denotes tranquility springing from faith in the promises of God. Joy is peace reveling, peace is joy at rest.
Joy is active and expressive. It sparkles and flashes like a diamond. It is pictured by David dancing before the ark. However, the body is weak and cannot endure unending delight. There are times when the body cannot be effervescent. For instance, in times of bereavement, one finds it hard to be vivacious and energetic. Therefore, room is made for peace.
When the body needs relief, it is found in the lovely form of peace. In peace, the heart is still joyous, but in a calm and quiet way. It is pictured by David’s prayer, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4a).
Joy stands up and shouts hosanna. Peace leans her head in Christ’s bosom. Peace does not seek an exciting crowd, but enjoys instead the calm shade and a quiet chamber. Peace is no less spiritual than joy, just less active and stirred.
Joy and peace are attainable. When clouds of doubt or despondency blow our way, flee with all our might to prayer, and beseech Heaven for joy and peace.
I find it significant that this prayer occurs in a section dealing with unity among believers. The prayer contains the true remedy for controversy within a fellowship. Fill believers with a fuller spiritual life, and differences will begin to dwindle. In the presence of total joy and peace there is no room left for quarrels.
We cannot expect to receive from a church what is not in it. The reservoir must be filled before it can pour forth in a stream. We must ourselves be filled with joy and peace before we can display these traits toward others.