Thesis:Prayer requires that we adopt God's interests.
Introduction:As we begin the study of a new chapter in Romans this evening, we are compelled by the words to return to an old theme. In 10:1 we have a redundant statement of the same theme of 9:1-3. The difference is that 9:1-3 is far more potent than 10:1 so that the text before us this evening is a mere echo of that earlier declaration. As an echo, it is simply a reminder and restatement regarding Paul's actual attitude toward "Israel". Being an echo does not mean that it is not important, but it does mean that its value lies in reintroducing a major issue that "readers" might overlook and not in some "new" reality. However, there is a new twist, and it is that toward which we will direct our attention.
The new twist is the way Paul expressed his heart as it was exposed in 9:1-3. It has to do with what a person is supposed to do when something is so important to him that he is willing to perish if necessary in order to accomplish it. It has to do with "praying".
I. There Are Some Dangers In the Topic.
A. Because the penchant for men is heavily weighted in the direction of "legalism", prayer has been turned into a "look what we have done" kind of activity and it has been assigned a "power" which is not legitimately ascribed to it.
B. Because this penchant for "legalism" is dominant, prayer has been reduced from its intended nature to a matter of speaking words into the air [Note Luke 18:11].
C. Because of this penchant, even many of the words of the Scriptures have been twisted to give a meaning that they never intended to communicate.
1. On the one hand, we have the abuse of Mark 11:24 so that it has become a way to promise what has never been promised and, then, to blame those who were willing to be misled.
2. On the other hand, we have the abuse of 1 John 5:14 so that it has become a way to ignore Mark 11:24.
II. Paul's Revelation Regarding Prayer.
A. It begins with his appellation regarding his readers: brethren.
1. Everywhere in the Bible, God is revealed as fundamentally relational and only secondarily active.
a. This means that people have always been at the core of His interests and that activities and things are only of value as they address the true benefit of the people.
b. This means that everywhere activities and things have become objectives to which the "people" must be enslaved, we have significant subversion.
2. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught that relationships are to be viewed as means to our ends.
a. This means that people are never supposed to be viewed in terms of how they benefit us.
b. This means that people are never supposed to be subjected to our wants.
3. Thus, for Paul to refer, at this point, to his readers as "brethren" means that prayer is about serving people, notbeingserved by people.
B. It continues with the issue of a heart's desire.
1. The issue of "desire" signals real interest.
a. The word used here is used by Paul in Ephesians 1:5 and 9 to indicate what lies behind God's actions of "predestination" and "making known".
1) That this is behind predestination makes it extremely important.
2) That this word is what defines this extremely important concept means that it is not "usable" in "casual" settings.
b. The word is used by Paul on the heels of Romans 9:1-3.
2. That it is identified as a "heart" desire signals fundamental values.
a. This removes this matter of "prayer" from the realm of "incidental" values.
b. This insists that this kind of "prayer" not be twisted into some kind of mechanical, "legal" process, nor some kind of "really disinterested" situation.
C. It continues with the use of the word "prayer".
1. This is the word used in Luke's record of Zacharias' request for a son.
2. It exactly fits the requirements of a "prayerful" approach to a "heart's desire".
D. It moves further with the issue of "unto salvation".
1. It was Paul who decided to use the texts of the Old Testament which describe "Israel's" lost condition as a part of the plan of God.
2. This looks like Paul is seriously "praying about" something that is obviously not the will of God.
3. But, there is Romans 11:26 to be considered.
a. Here "Israel" is a portion of one generation.
b. But, also here is a revelation of the fact that God's Plan includes the nation as an object of salvation even when the individuals are not all included.
4. This means that Paul has a definitive expression of "God's will" in view and has embraced it with his whole heart.
III. Conclusions We Draw.
A. "Prayer" is not about "getting whatever we want".
B. "Prayer" is about being continually refocused upon what God wants.