We’re getting to the end of St Paul’s Letter to the Romans now. And as he turns his mind towards final greetings and encouragements, he allows himself a little autobiographical interlude. After all, the Christians in Rome have heard about him, but most of them have never met him in person.
First, he explains why he has written to them: because, despite the fact that he knows that they are a church mature in the faith and wise, he has heard that there were dissensions among the Jewish and Gentile Christians there, and he has a commission from God to preach to Gentile Christians and to defend their right to worship him.
Then, he explains what his hopes and dreams under God are: to proclaim Christ where he has not already been proclaimed. (He wants particularly, he says, to take the gospel to Spain.)
Finally, he asks for their prayers, and especially for their prayers that he might meet them in person and bless them.
In church life, not many of us know one another very well. God brings us together to worship him through his Son, and whilst we may know certain people in our congregation very well, all too often we don’t have much contact with others in the church besides standing next to them in a pew on a Sunday morning.
But if we are really to be members of the body of Christ, rather than just individuals worshipping God alongside one another, we need also to do with one another the three things Paul does with the Romans in this passage. We need to tell one another why we are there in church – how has God worked in our lives, how has he brought us to worship him? We need to share with one another our hopes and dreams under God – what do we yearn for, and what do we need one another’s prayers for? And finally, we need to ask for one another’s prayers, that through praying for one another, we might bless one another.
These devotions were originally written for the parish of All Saints, Ascot and we are grateful for permission to republish them on Fulcrum.
Patrick is curate of All Saints’, Ascot in Berkshire. A musicologist by training, he is married to Lydia, a university lecturer, and dad to Madeleine. He writes (sporadically) at benedixisti.wordpress.com and tweets (even more sporadically) as @patrickgilday.