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Answers to prayer

Published at: 22/05

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Apostle Paul prays for three things

Romans 15:30-33

“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Paul here is praying for three things.

  1. To be rescued from Jewish unbelievers in Jerusalem
  2. That he might be accepted by the church in Jerusalem
  3. That he might be able to visit the church in Rome after his visit to Jerusalem

Unusually for something that was a prayer request made 2000 years ago we do know almost exactly how the prayer was answered. Let’s backtrack so we can understand what this is all about

Paul had plans

Paul we know from Acts 7-9 was a fanatical Pharisee who had approval from the High Priest to arrest people and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment which meant death or imprisonment. God dramatically changed his life and his plans. Before we move on let us draw an application for our own lives. Do we just drift along through life or do we have a plan? Are we like a mouse on a treadmill running fast but going nowhere? God has a plan for the world - to save it John 3: 16-17

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

How did Jeff Bezos start selling books?

Jeff Bezos was not born into a wealthy family. His mother was 17 years old when he was born, and his father was 18 years old. With their parent's money, they flew to Mexico to get married before Jeff was born. His father was a poor man who worked at a retail store, barely making more than a dollar an hour. His mother attended night school to complete her education. She divorced his father. When Jeff was four years old, his mother married Miguel Bezos, a man who came from Cuba and attended the University of New Mexico. He adopted Jeff and gave him his last name. The couple had more children and the family eventually moved from New Mexico to Texas Founder Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in the garage of his rented home in Bellevue, Washington, when it was still an online bookstore. The start-up was funded in part by Bezos' parents. A year later, in July 1995, Amazon launched its online bookshop, offering the biggest collection of books on the Web to anyone with access to the Internet.

  • Jeff Bezos had a dream to use the internet to sell books all over the world.
  • He had a plan.
  • God has a plan for you

Jeremiah 29:11-13 New International Version

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

God's plan for Paul Acts 9:15-16 New International Version

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul's plan was to preach the good news of Jesus wherever he found people that had not heard the message. Romans 15:15-16 New International Version

Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

Romans 15:23-29 New International Version

I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.

So what happened?

All the way to Jerusalem godly people warned Paul that he faced arrest and hatred from the Jewish leaders. We read about it in Acts 21 and 22. Paul, remember, is praying for three things.

  1. To be rescued from Jewish unbelievers in Jerusalem
  2. That he might be accepted by the church in Jerusalem
  3. That he might be able to visit the church in Rome after his visit to Jerusalem

But things did not go as he expected Paul thought he would be able to preach to the Jews and see the same results as he had with the Gentiles. He was also bringing a substantial sum of money from the churches in Greece for the church in Jerusalem to support its poor.

The church in Jerusalem led at the time by James Acts 21: 18

  • Let him stay with Mnason, an outsider from Cyprus, no hospitality from the Jerusalem church leaders – racism?
  • Never gave thanks for the offering – used money for purification rituals
  • Told him off for giving Christians a bad name amongst Jews and asked him to go through a Jewish purification ritual in the Temple. His attendance in the Temple started a riot.
  • When he was arrested never came to help him; - it was his nephew that warned the Romans that the Jewish leaders were setting a trap

Paul always caused a riot or a revival The Jews in the Temple rioted and tried to kill Paul but fortunately the Roman legions rescued him. The Roman commander thought Paul was an Egyptian rebel and wanted to flog him to gain a confession so Paul announced he was a Roman citizen and entitled to a fair trial first. Eventually Paul appealed to Caesar so was given an all-expenses paid trip to Rome via a shipwreck in Malta.

God's Answers to Paul's Prayer

  • Rescued from Jewish unbelievers in Jerusalem – rescued by Romans

  • Accepted by the church in Jerusalem 2 Peter 3: 15

    Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Peter endorses Paul’s teaching

  • Visit the church in Rome after his visit to Jerusalem – brought for trial in Rome before Caesar Nero that would eventually lead to his execution

CONFEDERATE SOLDIER’S PRAYER

  • I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
  • I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
  • I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
  • I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
  • I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
  • I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
  • I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
  • I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
  • I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
  • I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
  • I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
  • Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
  • I am among all men most richly blessed.

• Author unknown Attributed to a battle-weary Confederate States Army soldier near the end of the war

Paul and his collection for the poor in Jerusalem

Jon Courson teaching from Romans 15