Paul was praying much for the church at Rome, although he had never visited it. God had given him a special desire to help that church. However, for a long time it seemed that Paul could only help Romeís Christians by his prayers.
Sometimes even Christians think that prayer is a poor way to help someone. Certainly, we should not only pray when God has given us the power to do something else (compare James 2:14-17). However, God acts powerfully when his people pray (James 5:16). He does not need us to be present with the people for whom we pray (Matthew 8:5-13).
Paulís eager desire was to visit the church at Rome, and to declare Godís message, the gospel, there. He was praying for the opportunity to do that. Of course, Paul could have simply sailed on the next available boat to Rome. However, Paul was very careful only to do what God wanted him to do. He believed that God wanted to guide not just his (Paulís) own life, but the life of every Christian (Galatians 5:18).
At the present time, Paul believed God was sending him, not west to Rome, but east to Jerusalem (15:25). We do not know how God showed that to him. In the past, God had frequently guided Paul in a very clear manner (Acts 16:6-10). On the present occasion, God had guided Paul so clearly that he went to Jerusalem against his friendsí advice (Acts 21:1-14).
Paul knew that he would suffer at Jerusalem. However, that was the means by which God actually sent Paul to Rome. Paul went there as a prisoner, as Acts chapters 21 to 28 explain. So in the end, God did answer Paulís prayer, and Paul was able to declare Godís message, the gospel, in Rome.
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© 2017, Keith Simons.