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24 October 2021

Making Mention of You All - Fellowship in prayer

An excerpt from: Gordon J. Keddie Prayers of the Bible (Crown and Covenant, 2017) p.590-591

 Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.  - Romans 1:9


 “There must be fellowship in prayer."  So writes that giant of the Reformation, Martin Luther.  "Christian prayer," he adds, "is complete only when we intercede for the common good of all and not merely for ourselves."  Prayer is not so much about what you and I need or want for ourselves, but more about what God wants for all of us who are or will yet be his people.  Paul cares about God's flock—specifically, the believers "in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (Rom. 1:7).  If I know the grace of God in Jesus Christ my Saviour, then I want that same grace for others, with no ifs, buts, or maybes.  Grace in my heart ought always to put grace on my lips and grow me in the fellowship of prayer.  And then with Paul, I will “without ceasing…make mention…always" of others in my prayers (v. 9).  We are all challenged here as to how much we care about people—and how much this is reflected in our prayer life.

Paul's praying is driven by two inextricably intertwined motives.  The first is thankfulness to the Lord and the second is goodwill toward others.

Are you not constantly thankful for God's grace in saving otherwise lost people—including yourself—and so giving you brothers and sisters in Christ?  Notice how Paul is thankful to God through Jesus for all fellow-believers (v. 8a).  This is where intercessory prayer starts.  It is the most basic impulse of the heart of every true Christian in relation to other Christians.  Even if you have justifiable complaints or concerns about certain brothers in Christ, these should be distantly secondary to a profound thankfulness to God through Jesus for them.  Surely a simple thanks for the work of the gospel in their hearts and for their witness to Christ before the church and the world (v. 8b) must warm our souls and bind us to them in fellowship?

Are you not then moved to pray for God's future blessing of his people? Notice how the apostle outlines his commitment to such prayer.

His personal starting point is an open-hearted honesty before the Lord: "For God is my witness" (v. 9a).  Without God, our best intentions die in the air.  Too often these are no more than show and a form of words anyway.  Real blessing begins with the God who is able to answer sincere goodwill in prayer with gracious providence in others' lives.  God is the starting point, always, invariably, and without exception.  Apart from him there are only passing feelings and illusory expectations, however pious-sounding.

His personal history is one of wholehearted service to the Lord's goasl for his people.  He prays for people because he serves God "with [his] spirit in the gospel of His Son" (v. 9b). The word "serve" is translated “worship" elsewhere in Scripture (cf. Matt. 4:10; Heb. 8:5).  He is saying, ‘Lord, you know I am most sincere and consistent day by day in this’  This is single-minded Christian devotion in action—that "sincere love of the brethren" in which believers "love one another fervently with a pure heart" (1 Peter 1:22). Oh, what a privilege to love one another in Jesus our Saviour!

His personal desire is expressed in a large-hearted intercession for the Roman Christians that includes a request that he might "find a way in the will of God" to fellowship with them in person, and both minister to them and be ministered to by them in their "mutual faith" (vv. 10-12).  Here is a three-point program for your practice of loving the Lord's people.  Care about God's flock and be open-hearted, wholehearted, and large-hearted in the gospel of his Son, the Saviour who died on earth, that you might have everlasting life both on earth and in heaven. Let us make mention of each other every day!

 A Psalm for today:

 1  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
2  Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!
3  Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together,
4  to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
5  There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.
6  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you!
7  Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”
8  For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”
9  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Psalm 122:1-9 (ESV)