Prayer and Gospel Progress.

Where do we find real success and real help in our evangelistic efforts? No Gospel outreach is ever effective unless it is underpinned with the fervent prayer of God's people.

To find spiritual success, we ought to be praying more than we're witnessing. Prayer overcomes obstacles of all kinds that are encountered by the Gospel message and its carriers. God has an order for his interdependent gospel advancement for each of us. (See previous messages.) This geographic order starts with your witness in your own area.

Gospel advancement is most efficiently done through unified, maturing, disciple-making believers at the local church level. (See Romans chapter 12.) It is most capably accomplished by those who live in holy love. Christians who know and live the objective will of God together, and who pray together, will realize the fruit of their holy lives and prayer endeavors.

A Discerned Intention (Romans 15:30)

Paul starts this paragraph with an encouragement to unity of purpose. "Urge" in the New Testament is normally an intense word, but the word Paul uses carries the idea of calling someone alongside yourself. He qualifies his encouragement with the phrase "by our Lord Jesus Christ." In the context of strong and weak brethren, he is respecting preferences of both groups of believers. The love of the Spirit is that which He creates among us as a unified, maturing people (Galatians 5:13-25).

After giving the loving call and unifying reasons, Paul calls the Roman Christians to the effort of prayer. On the other hand, the phrase "strive together" carries the meaning of agonizing. Unity comes from the top down in the structures of authority that God has established in the created universe. The purposes of unified believers agonizing in prayer together are clear.

Paul requests prayer for himself as he pursues the spread of the Gospel. Spiritual success would require intense prayer from God's unified people. Churches that don't experience spiritual growth usually have division in their midst, often a rift within the leadership. Their efforts produce no fruit but exhaustion and frustration. Maturing people praying together is absolutely necessary if they will have any Gospel progress.

A Necessary Protection (Romans 15:31a)

Paul also requests prayer for physical protection. He had reason to request this, as he had experienced persecution in many instances (Acts 21:20-27:23). In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3, he asked the same. Persecution of the early church primarily came from religious people. It is hard for them to realize that salvation comes from Jesus alone. We should pray the same for each other and those who take the Gospel out from us.

An Organic Cooperation (Romans 15:31b-33)

The church in Jerusalem was probably working harder to stay unified due to the large percentage of formerly religious Jews. He desired to be welcomed with open arms. Even among the genuinely saved, some might doubt his motive for bringing a gift to help the Jerusalem church feed their poor. He wanted them to understand his spiritual motivation because he wanted to engage in mutual encouragement as well. Paul could not pursue Gospel advancement to the edge of the current Roman empire and beyond without the cooperation of these local churches.

Not every gospel opportunity will be smooth sailing, but it is a joy to have fellowship with healthy people. God's intention was never for the Gospel to spread primarily through times of persecution but of peace as in Acts 9:31. When persecution comes, it is typically (not always) because the church is not doing its job.

Gospel advancement should be done by the will of God according to the parameters in God's Word.

Application Points

  • Believers who pray together realize spiritual success in Gospel advancement. In this time of peace for the church in our culture, we should be agonizing together in prayer and pursuing unified Gospel advancement all the more!
  • God is not interested in sending spiritual newborns to churches that are divided. Keep working to maintain unity!

Cross References to Explore
  • Matthew 9:38, Luke 10:2, Ephesians 6:18-20, Colossians 4:2-6 – Prayer is essential for any kind of Gospel outreach.

  • Psalm 133 – Two metaphors of the blessings of unity.

  • Matthew 5:23-24 – Do not worship with division among you.

  • John 17:20-23 – Unity is essential for Gospel outreach.

A Hymn to Encourage: "Christian Hearts in Love United"

Christian hearts, in love united,
Seek alone in Jesus rest;
Has He not your love excited?
Then let love inspire each breast;
Members on our head depending,
Lights reflecting Him, our sun,
Brethren His commands attending,
We in Him, our Lord, are one.

Come, then, come, O flock of Jesus,
Covenant with Him anew;
Unto Him who conquered for us,
Pledge we love and service true;
And should our love’s union holy
Firmly linked no more remain,
Wait ye at His footstool lowly,
Till He draw it close again.

Grant, Lord, that with Thy direction,
"Love each other," we comply,
Aiming with unfeigned affection
Thy love to exemplify;
Let our mutual love be glowing,
Thus will all men plainly see,
That we, as on one stem growing,
Living branches are in Thee.

O that such may be our union,
As Thine with the Father is,
And not one of our communion
E’er forsake the path of bliss;
May our light forth with brightness,
From Thy light reflected, shine;
Thus the world will bear us witness,
That we, Lord, are truly Thine.