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STRIVING TOGETHER IN PRAYER

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, February 7, 2015

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Romans 15:30).


Paul is speaking to the church at Rome. He asks them all to pray that Christ will bless his coming to visit them in the richest measure. Paul relied on prayer. It is though Christ Himself calls on them to pray with him. He urges them to pray for him for Christ’s sake, and by the love which the Holy Spirit works, to strive together with him in their prayers for his ministry. The Greek word translated “strive” is from the Greek word, “agonizomai.” We get our English word “agony” from it. Paul is asking them to “agonize” in prayer to God for him. Paul used that same Greek word when he spoke of a man named Epaphras, who was “always labouring fervently for you in prayers” (Colossians 4:12). Paul is saying “agonize with me in prayer.” He wanted them to pray with great struggle and exercise. He wanted them to pray as Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,”

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44).

“Agonia” is there translated as “agony.” George Ricker Berry translates it, “Being in conflict more intently he prayed.” He translated “agonia” as “conflict.” Hebrews 5:7 is the commentary on Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane,

“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared” (Hebrews 5:7).

That is Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane. And that shows us what the words “agonizomai” and “agonia” mean. Those words speak of prayer “with strong crying and tears,” or, as a modern translation puts it, prayer “with loud cries and tears” (NIV).

This was what Paul was asking the Roman Christians to do when he urged them to “strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” One of our men who knows how to pray like that happened to pray aloud in a prayer meeting in another church. The pastor reprimanded him and told him not to “shout at God.” I didn’t hear about that until later. At first I was angry with that pastor. But I said nothing. Later I told the man who thus prayed that it was probably the first time that pastor had ever heard a real, Christ-like prayer in his church! In our poverty-stricken churches today people are startled by earnest preaching and earnest prayer! They have become accustomed to dead preaching and dry as dust prayers! But why pray with such earnestness and zeal? Why pray in an agony as Christ did? Charles Simeon said,

God has enjoined intercession as a duty, and appointed it as a means of bestowing his blessings among men. [Therefore we should] seek his blessing in his appointed way (Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible, Zondervan, 1955 reprint, volume 15, Romans, p. 586).

After hearing my sermon on “Election” last Sunday morning, some people might say, “Why pray like this if God already knows and predestined what will happen?” Charles Simeon gave the answer, God has “appointed [such prayer] as a means of bestowing his blessings...in his appointed way.” Mr. Simeon was thoroughly Reformed. He believed in election. But he knew that the “appointed way” to receive God’s blessings is through agonizing prayer. Remember that Mr. Simeon went through great conflict for many years before God made his church a center for revival during the Second Great Awakening. Charles Simeon had the heart of a pastor, the preaching of a lion, and the prayers of a saint. He was a friend of John Wesley toward the end of Wesley’s life, in the time of the great revival.

Charles Simeon said that “the doctrine of the Trinity, if it were true, would not be mentioned in two or three distinct passages of Holy Scripture, but would [be found in] the whole of the Scripture...” and so we find it here in the text,

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Romans 15:30).

He said that the Apostle Paul requested that the Christians at Rome pray for “the preservation of his life, the success of his work, and extension of his usefulness in the world. Now these are the objects for which every minister needs [his people to pray].” And that is what I need you to pray for in my own ministry.

Mr. Simeon knew the importance of real, agonizing prayer. He was appointed as the pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge in 1783. There was great opposition from the congregation who disliked his evangelical zeal and doctrine. When he preached his first sermon, most of the members stayed home in protest. Simeon preached to a few visitors who came to hear him. Then the congregation locked the doors of their pews to stop visitors from having a place to sit in the church. Simeon placed benches in the aisles, but the people threw the benches into the churchyard. Simeon started Sunday evening services to reach lost souls, but the people locked the church doors, and he had to hold the meetings outdoors. It is hard to believe that Charles Simeon stayed at that church for fifty-four years.

As the years went by his enemies became less and less able to stop him from preaching on real conversion. Revival finally came to his church, and it became one of the great churches in England.

In 1832 Simeon commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of his ministry at that church. Dr. Warren Wiersbe said, “He had silenced or outlasted all his enemies...There was harmony in the church, the buildings were being renovated, and the gospel was going forth with clarity and power. He had come a long way from those days when his church officers had locked him out of his own church...What does Charles Simeon say to us today...For one thing, preach the Word. For another, stay with the job in spite of opposition...he would set the example for disciplined prayers” (Warren W. Wiersbe, D.D., Fifty People Every Christian Should Know, Baker Books, 2009, p. 52). Simeon went on to publish a large set of books containing 2,536 outlines covering the entire Bible. Spurgeon and Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones both recommended these books. Simeon influenced his young assistant Henry Martyn, who went out from his church as one of the first missionaries to India. Simeon helped to start the Church Missionary Society to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. He was especially interested in missions to the Jewish people. He founded a church in Amsterdam for the Jewish people there. At a time when people did not understand that God had a future for the Jews, he preached that the Jewish people would come back to Israel and that they would come to Jesus in a great end-time revival (Wiersbe, ibid., p. 51).

Charles Simeon believed in strong prayer for revival. In his comments on our text, he said,

Above all, I would call upon you to engage in prayer, with all possible earnestness, for your own souls...you ought to “strive,” as if you were wrestling for your life, when you pray for others...Be assured, it is not a few lukewarm [prayers] that God expects from you...you have all the powers of darkness [gathered] together for your destruction...it is by prayer alone that you can obtain deliverance from your enemies, or strength to fulfill the will of God. You must ask, if you would have; and seek, if you would find; and knock if you would have the door of mercy opened to you. I [urge] you then, to be in earnest [in prayer]...I beseech you, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for your own soul’s sake, to strive with God in prayer: and never let Him go, till you have obtained from Him the desired blessing. Plead with Him for mercy through the Redeemer’s blood; plead with Him for a more abundant [outpouring] of His Spirit upon your souls...Then shall these blessings descend upon you, and God will be glorified in your everlasting salvation (Charles Simeon, Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible, volume 15, Romans, Zondervan Publishing House, 1955 reprint, pp. 592, 593).

Amen! and Amen!

The lost world is against us! The Devil and his demons are against us! Our own carnal natures are against us! Our only hope for real conversions and revival lies in God! And we can only receive His power and strength by “striving together” in agonizing prayer. God can do again what He did in the days of Charles Simeon! God can do again what He did in the days of the Apostle Paul!

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Romans 15:30).

Amen! Praise the name of our God! May He help you to pray like soldiers until the battle is won, and the power of His Spirit brings salvation to our lost members, and revival to our church! Amen!

(END OF SERMON)
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