First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.
Paul constantly praying for others, even those he had never met (1 Thess.1:2-3, 2:13), and exhorting Christians to pray for him (Rm.15:30ff.) this is an example for us to follow, because we are commanded, but also sincerely we want God’s blessings for them.
Following facts are revealed about Paul’s praying:
(1) We pray not to a God who is distant. “My” God, possesses God in covenant relationship “I will be your God and you shall be my people” is great blessing of covenant. To Paul God not some distant authority on 20th. floor, nor personal relationship, but love and trust. How is this possible? God is so great and so holy!
(2) Only through Jesus Christ. Gospel centred in God’s Son (v.3), brings us into union with Him (v.6), all things received from Him (v.7), our prayers acceptable only through Christ. Paul can never cease to mention Him (see also Eph.5:20, Heb.13:15, and Jn.14:13-14). It should be obvious that in Christianity there is nothing without Christ, yet many only talk about ‘God’. Do you come to God through own efforts, another mediator, or consciously through Christ?
(3) With thanksgiving. Importance of thanksgiving, even in your own children. Paul’s constant practice (e.g. 1 Cor.1:4), commanded in Phil.4:6, 1 Thess.5:18. If there are believers, do not thank them for believing, but thank God who is author of faith! For example if someone brings gift of food from home, you say “Thank them” when you return, sometimes even forget to thank who brought them! Are you able to look at fellow believers as objects of God’s love, and so thank God for them? How can we keep on asking yet never thanking God for very great work already done?
(4) Without ceasing. Regularly, disciplined remembrance, knowing all depends on God is the meaning of praying without ceasing. Paul’s constant praying should be such a rebuke to us who pray once then forget, spend such little time in prayer. This should especially be a rebuke to your elders whose specific responsibility it is (Acts 6:4). But also it is a rebuke to you who think that preachers can do it by themselves and do not constantly pray for ministry of word in the church to be used of God to save! It is true that, “To pray without labour mocks God,” but “to labour without prayer robs God of glory”
One of reasons we should make every effort to pray with God’s people at prayer meetings. It is a good sign if convicts us, knowing no excuse of busyness – are ever too busy to eat? If it happens then you suffer physically! In the same way it you suffer spiritually if you are slothful in prayer. I love my fellow believers and know they depend on my prayers, as I do on theirs. What about you who do not see need, who never pray for others?
Paul had often planned to go to Rome (vv.10, 13). Naturally, at heart of Roman Empire. But this was impossible for many years because called to other labours to evangelize where Christ was not known and now accomplished in Eastern area (15:22-23, see Acts 19:21). Perhaps this letter was to prepare them for his soon coming. So he had been making this desire a matter of continuing prayer to show hoe he was determined to get to Rome. We know he eventually arrived in Rome – but as a prisoner!!
(5) He submitted his desires to the will of God (v.10). Clear example of how guidance was received:
§ Make plans, taking into account God’s revealed will & God’s purpose for your life, and make sure there are Biblical goals that will be accomplished (see 2)
§ Pray constantly that such plans might be fulfilled even when hindered from coming to pass. For example, plans to visit home with gospel, having been converted – do not be put off.
§ Willing to submit fulfilment to providential will of God, wholehearted, unconditionally. So able to accept delay without frustration; God has other things for present (Acts 16:6-10). Is it wrong to pray “If it is your will”? because it seems to lack faith in prayer. Rather, wrong not to do so (Acts 18:21, 1 Cor.4:19, 16:7, see Jas.4:13-17). Expresses true faith for recognizes God as sovereign disposer of all events, will unknown. No “naming and claiming” as if whatever we desire now must be fulfilled now.