Elsewhere, Paul urged Christians to be joyful at all times (Philippians 4:4). Here, however, he says that he is deeply sad in his heart; he feels like someone in constant pain. Clearly, we must examine Paulís words carefully to understand his meaning.
Paul has just referred to a kind of deeply sad attitude, which is in fact a form of prayer (compare Romans 8:23 and 8:26). In this sense, Christ was deeply sad too (Isaiah 53:3); you can read a description of his prayers in Hebrews 5:7. Godís people have every reason to be joyful about what God is doing in their lives (Isaiah 55:12; Luke 15:7). However, at the same time, they are deeply sad about the troubles in our world; and that causes them to pray desperately (Psalm 13:1-2; Psalm 74:1-11).
Paulís prayer here is completely unselfish (9:3). That fact helps us to recognise that Paul is not just expressing his personal desires and feelings to God. Rather, Paul is praying as Godís Holy Spirit has directed him to pray.
That prayer is for the Jewish people, in other words, the people who belong to Israel. Many of them were not serving God properly; a few of them were even actively opposing the first Christians.
Paul understood that there is a relationship between Godís plan for Israel, and his plans for people from every nation (11:11-12). Therefore, Paulís subject is still, as in chapter 8, how God will complete his plans for his people (8:17-30).
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© 2017, Keith Simons.