10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
1901 ASV Translation:
10 making request, if by any means now at length I may be prospered by the will of God to come unto you.
There is one textual variant in this verse. The NA26 separates the combination word "if by any means" into its two parts. The end result is that nothing is changed except the spacing between words. There is no "meaning" change created by this variation. In terms of translation, however, neither the AV nor the ASV translations follow the verse divisions that are given in the Greek texts. Both of them put "always in my prayers" into verse 9 whereas the Greek texts have them in verse 10.
A. Paul here claims that his prayer for the Romans includes the request that the "will of God" might include a trip to Rome. He, even though an apostle, apparently did not have a clue as to how this might transpire...or, even, if it would transpire. His optimism is revealed in Romans 15:20-33, but he also acknowledged in 1Thessalonians 2:18 that there were "hindrances" of another sort that sometimes got into the mix also.
B. Romans 15:23 seems to indicate that "now" is a "good time for a trip to Rome" in Paul's mind...little did he know how this desire was going to be both "frustrated" by his trip to Jerusalem and "fulfilled" by his trip to Jerusalem.
C. This raises the issue of "prayer" and the "point" of "praying". Apparently "prayer" does not include any particular "insights" into how things are going to transpire; just as apparently "prayer" does not affect many, if not most, of the "turns" on life's road. And, the entire issue of "prayer" needs to be examined in light of why people "pray", or, more importantly, what the Bible actually says about "prayer" as a function of man.
1. Culturally, "prayer" has been turned into a methodology for "getting things done". The question, "why pray?" is often raised for precisely that reason: it does not get the things "done" that we wanted done, or the end result, though what we may have requested, has so much other stuff involved that we did not anticipate that we lose sight of it pretty much altogether.
2. The words are key...
a. The word translated "prayers" (at the end of verse 9 in the translations) is a combination word that connects a 'serious level of desire' [like 'longing for the day' when shipwrecked and cast into the sea in the night (Acts 27:29) or being willing to perish for the sake of others as in Romans 9:3 in conjunction with Romans 10:1] to a word that indicates deliberate direction 'toward'. The etymology indicates "expressing a significant desire in God's direction", i.e. speaking to God about something one really longs for. In this way, the Temple was conceived of as a House of Longings (translated "Prayer").
1) According to Romans 12:12, believers are to continuously exercise this option -- taking their longings to God.
2) In our text, Paul indicates that he had a regular period of expressing his longings to God each day...and in that time, he mentioned the believers in Rome.
3) In Romans 15:30 he requested those believers to "strive together" in the expression of their longings to God as they considered Paul -- i.e. there is a "striving" that needs to go on in expressing their longings (as Colossians 4:12 illustrates) and there is a "collective value" in such "striving" (as Acts 12:5 indicates).
4) In Matthew 17:21 and I Corinthians 7:5, "fasting" is associated with this particular type of prayer: abstaining from food while expressing one's longings to God. This is presented in regard to "exceptionally strong desires".
5) In I Timothy 5:5, a genuine widow with no one to help her is to be supported by the church and she is to "earn her keep" by "praying" night and day.
6) James 5:17 says Elijah "prayed with prayer" -- the indication is that he expressed a deep longing as a deep longing.
7) Revelation 5:8; and 8:3-4 make this type of activity the "incense" that accompanies all of the activities of Temple worship.
a) Our deeper longings are to be expressed to God. They are not to be suppressed, nor are we to be so shallow that we don't even know what we desire.
i. This raises this question: what are we to do with His refusal to give us what we long for? (How do we know it is an actual refusal and not just a matter of timing?)
ii. And that raises this question: are the deeper longings of our hearts there by the working of God? and How do we know?
iii. And then there is this question: how do we "set aside" the longings which are determined to be outside of the will of God?
b) Our deeper longings are to be shared with others so that there can be a collective effort.
i. This raises this question: What are the issues involved in "collective effort"? God is certainly able to respond One on one. Is "collective effort" a kind of practice of the Law of the Harvest that applies to prayer? Is "collective effort" a kind of "purifying process" wherein one's "deeper longings" become subject to the judgment of fellow believers as to their legitimacy?
ii. This raises another question: What are we to do about "prayer requests" that are not of the "deeper level of desire" and how is that determination made?
c) What about desires that have no "deeper" identity? Are we supposed to pray about things that are of little to no importance to us?
i. Is there such a thing as being frivolous in prayer?
ii. What kinds of things ought we not to pray about?
d) Where does "contentment" come into the picture? If one is contented, where are the deep longings?