Prayer is effectual. That means prayer works. In James 5, we read these words.
16b The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
In Romans 15:31–32, Paul wants his brothers and sisters in Christ to pray . . .
31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.
We know from earlier in the chapter that Paul is on his way to Jerusalem to deliver the financial love offering that he’d been collecting for the saints in Jerusalem. Keep this in mind as hear his prayer requests.
He has two prayer requests. First, he asks for prayer that he will be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea. He understands that there are people who would love nothing more than to see Paul dead.
Paul’s not afraid of death. He’s quite ready to die. So, why does he pray to be delivered from these individuals? He requests prayer because he’s planning on going to Spain to preach the gospel there. As Paul is writing this letter, the gospel hasn’t made its way to Spain yet, and Paul’s eager to preach the gospel where it hasn’t yet been proclaimed.
It’s a kingdom-oriented prayer. He wants to see the gospel advance.
Second, he asks for prayer that his service for Jerusalem will be acceptable to the saints there. He’s talking about the love offering that he’s carrying to them.
Now, we might wonder, “Why wouldn’t they be happy to receive financial help? Why is he asking for prayer for this?” After all, wouldn’t we be happy to receive an unexpected financial blessing?
But we do well to remember how passionate the Jerusalem believers were about the importance of keeping the Jewish law. Many of them were fanatically opposed to Paul even preaching to the Gentiles, and the offering that Paul was carrying to them had been collected from the Gentile churches in Macedonia and Achaia. There was a very real possibility that they would reject this help.
So, Paul asks for prayer.
And here’s what we know. Both prayers were answered! Prayer is effective.
Paul was delivered from his enemies (Acts 21:27ff). And the offering evidently helped heal Gentile-Jewish relations (Acts 21:17–20).
Prayer is effective.
As you consider the effectiveness of prayer, take some time to pray for your pastor as he prepares to preach the word to you this week.