“Your Most Important Prayer For Others” (Romans 10:1 sermon)

It’s usually a whole lot easier to pick on the sins of other people, instead of addressing our own. I remember years ago, when I was in seminary, watching an evangelist on television turn to the tv camera and say, “I’m here to tell you, all you godless atheists and secular humanists out there …” and the crowd got all fired up and applauded and said “amen!”  But I remember thinking to myself; “How many ‘godless atheists and secular humanists’ did he think were really out there watching his show?” But it made for a rousing speech, and for good television!

 It’s easy to sit here in front of a bunch of Christians and rant about the sins of others. And truly there is a place for us to preach against the sins of society, and make sure our people don’t get caught up in the tide of moral compromise. We are not to keep silent, and we need to train our people in the truth. But truthfully it’s a whole lot easier to condemn the sins of people “out there” in the world, and ignore the sins of the people sitting right in front of you.

This week we read in Micah 3 about how God condemned the false prophets, who “speak ‘peace’” as long as someone pays them — but he said, “On the other hand I (the true prophet of God) am filled with power and with the Spirit of the Lord and with justice and courage, to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, and to Israel his sin.”  He says the true prophet of God, will point out the sins of Jacob and Israel — NOT the sins of Ammon, or Moab, or the Philistines — but the sins of JACOB — GOD’S people. That means that a big part of a pastor’s job is to speak to the sins of God’s people. And if we don’t do that, we are not being faithful to God’s call.  

And one of the biggest sins of God’s people today is be our lack of concern for people who don’t know Christ as their Lord & Savior. This is no small sin, because it goes right to the very heart of our faith, and it shows what we really believe. Paul addresses this here in Romans 10:1 where he says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” 

Now the context of this verse is very important. If you read Romans this last  week you know that Paul spent a lot of Romans 9 talking about how he was troubled for the salvation of his Jewish brothers and sisters. In fact he begins Chapter 9:1, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites …”.  

So these are the people he is talking about here as he opens Chapter 10, saying “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”  

I. Your Heart For Others’ Salvation

Notice he opens this verse with the word, “Brethren.” So he is speaking to Christians; to people who already know Jesus as their Lord & Savior.

As we saw last week, being a Christian doesn’t mean that you are so good that God decided to call you one of His people. No, the first part of this Book of Romans makes it clear that NONE of us deserve to be called God’s people. In fact, Romans 1-3 details how we have all broken God’s laws, how none of us are righteous, and none of us are good. Romans 3:23 sums it up by saying, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

But the good news of the Gospel is, that although we are all sinners, and don’t deserve to go to heaven, God loved us and sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. Romans 5:8 goes on to say, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And when we put our faith in Him, as Romans 5:1 says, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are saved; we are Christians — NOT because of anything good that we did, or  anything that we deserved — but because of God’s gift to us in Jesus.  Now we are God’s children, “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ, part of the family of God.  And if that’s what’s really happened to us, we want others to have what we have too.

That’s how Paul was. As we saw last week, Paul was once a rebel against God; he persecuted and killed Christians. But his eyes were opened and he saw Jesus. So now he wants his fellow Jews to come to know Christ as well. That’s how it is with “brethren.” If you have become a part of the family of God, you want others to join you in that family as well. 

That’s exactly what happened in John 1. After Andrew heard Jesus, he decided to follow Him. Verse 41 says “He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’” First thing he did after he found Jesus, was tell his brother! He wanted him to know this One that He had found. When you truly come to know Christ as your Savior, then like Paul “your heart’s desire” is for others to know Him too.

During World War II, when Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie were in a concentration camp for hiding Jews, Betsie got very sick, and she would end up dying in the camp. But while she was sick, Corrie and Betsie would often have to go to the infirmary, which was to Corrie a smelly, depressing place. She hated to go there. But Betsie told her she loved to go there. She said this is “such an important place, Corrie! Some of these people are at the very threshold of heaven!’” Betsie was not afraid to die; she knew Jesus as her Savior. And because she did, she wanted OTHER people to know Him too. And she knew that infirmary, depressing and smelly as it was, was the best place to be able to tell other women about Jesus.  

This is what Paul means here when he says, “My heart’s desire … is for their salvation.” When you come to know God though Jesus Christ, you want other people to have what you have. Your heart’s desire is for their salvation.  You may not feel like you know what to share, or you may not feel like you are very good at sharing with others; but your heart WILL desire it. 

Don’t you desire in your heart, for people you know to be saved? If you are really a Christian, you do. In that light, some of us here today need to re-think our attitude about where we are. Maybe like Corrie Ten Boom, you have been thinking your workplace, or your school, or your neighborhood, or whatever, is not what you’d like it to be. Maybe like her infirmary it is “depressing” or “smelly,” or worse. But maybe you need to see like Betsie did, that God HAS YOU THERE for a reason: to be able to share with the other people who are there, the Jesus that you know!  If you are saved, your “heart’s desire” should be for others to have the same hope in Jesus that you have in your life. Your “heart’s desire” will be for their salvation.  

II. Your Prayer For Others’ Salvation

But not only that. Paul says, “My heart’s desire AND MY PRAYER TO GOD is for their salvation.” 

He says when we really DO have a heart for people’s salvation, then our heart will motivate us to pray. 

Really, PRAYER is an indicator of so many things spiritually:

— prayer shows how close you are to God in your relationship with Him

— prayer shows how much you really depend upon God and how much think you need Him

— and prayer also reveals our heart for other people.  If you want to know how much you love someone, just ask yourself: “How much am I praying for them?”, and you have your answer.

Your prayer shows your heart — in so many areas of your life.

Now, there are a number of different words for “prayer” in the New Testament, and each word emphasizes a different aspect of prayer: prayers of praise, thanksgiving, or whatever. This Bible word used here, deasis, means specifically to pray for a NEED in someone’s life. 

If you care about someone, you are going to pray for the needs they have. 

Our son David is waiting for the Lord to open up his first pastorate to serve. You can bet that Cheryl & I are praying for that need virtually every day. When our son Michael started driving, it really upped my prayer life. I forget who I was talking with about this the other day and the person said, “When your child starts driving, it really increases your prayer life!” And that is true, isn’t it!  You pray for the needs of the people you love, right?  

Well there is ONE need our loved ones have that is greater than any other: and that is their need for SALVATION. So our most important prayer for them, should be that they might be saved.

Paul says here in Romans 10:1 that his prayer to God for his Jewish brothers ”is for their SALVATION.” Not just for physical healing or comfort, or a job, or safety in travel, but especially, he says, that they may be saved.

Salvation is the most important thing we can be praying about for any loved one. Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” A person’s soul, and that soul’s standing with God, is THE single most important thing. Nothing else compares to that.

That’s why in Matthew 9, when they brought the man who was totally paralyzed to Jesus, Jesus took one look at him and said, “My son, your sins are forgiven you.” Here was a man who was PARALYZED! Most people would say that paralysis was by far the most important problem of his life. But Jesus knew it wasn’t. He knew his SIN was the biggest problem in his life, because it would separate him from God for eternity. So the most important need he had was for salvation. See, one day, every one of our bodies are going to deteriorate. Eat as healthy as you can, work out as much as you can, use every “fountain of youth” formula you can — but one day your body WILL deteriorate and it will die — no matter what condition it is in right now. And when that happens (and it will happen to each of us) the only thing that will matter that day is the state of your soul. That’s why Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Everything else is temporary. The most important thing about you, and the most important thing about anybody you know, is the soul. 

And that is why the most important prayers we can pray for anybody are our prayers for their soul — like Paul says here, “for their salvation.”

See, a lot of us are missing it, right here. Sometimes if Satan can’t get us totally off track, he’ll settle for getting us just a “little bit” off track. If he can’t keep us from praying for somebody, he’ll just get us to pray for the least important thing he can: just pray for their safety, or just pray for their physical health, or for their grades, or anything, instead of for their salvation. Hey: Satan would be totally content for you to pray for all those other requests, just so long as you don’t pray for their soul!

Think of our typical Sunday School or prayer meeting requests in our churches: what are they mostly? They are almost always prayers for people’s physical condition, aren’t they. Now of course it is not “wrong” to pray for physical concerns — we should pray about everything! — but we need to make sure that we are specifically and purposefully and with our utmost priority praying for people’s SALVATION! Nothing else compares with that, and nothing else should be more important to us when we pray!  

About 300 years after Christ, Augustine of Hippo, in North Africa, was a very intelligent young man, who was “climbing up the ladder” in Roman society; he was connected with some of the leading philosophers and politicians, and he was himself a very powerful speaker and orator. But in the process, he left the Christian faith he was brought up in, and joined a heretical religion called Manichaeism, a kind of a gnostic, new age-type religion which was about as far from Christianity as you could get. But he said that his mother, Monica, “wept on my behalf, wept more than most mothers weep when their children die.” He said, “For she saw that I WAS dead in faith and spirit.” 

See, Monica knew that even though her son would have been considered “successful” by many people, that THE single most important thing in his life was missing: faith in Christ. What did it matter if he was a great philosopher? What did it matter if he was a great orator? What did it matter if he knew and was known by famous people in Rome? What did it matter if he gained the whole world, and lost his SOUL? And so she wept for her son as if he were dead. And after some years of such weeping and praying, Augustine could write: “You heard her, Lord. You heard her and despised not her tears … They watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed. You heard her.”  And when he was about 32 years old, after years of his mother’s tearful prayers, Augustine finally came to faith in Christ. And historians and theologians often point to those tearful prayers of Monica, who would not let her son go, but so fervently prayed for his salvation.  

In prayer meeting the other night we mentioned Psalm 126:5, which says, “Those who sow in tears, shall reap with joyful shouting.” 

God does hear and answer prayers for salvation: sometimes, like Augustine, over years of time. But we have to be consistent, and faithful, and fervent in our prayers for our loved ones’ salvation.  

Quite honestly, one of greatest sins of many of God’s people today is not anything like drinking or immorality — but that we have given up caring about the salvation of the lost. And if we can stand by, and watch our husbands and wives, and sons and daughters, and best friends, and people we work with, or go to school with, every day, live their life without faith in Christ, and never share with them, and never cry prayers of salvation for them to God, it has to call into question everything we say we believe, doesn’t it? You can sit there and say, “O pastor, I believe in Jesus; I believe in heaven and salvation and eternal life, and I believe that Jesus is the only way.” But if you really do believe that, then how could it be that you never open your mouth to tell anyone about Jesus? If you really believe that, then how could you not be on your knees every day, praying for your loved one’s salvation? 

The truth is, just like this scripture says, what your heart really believes, will  motivate your prayers and your life. Paul’s heart’s desire led him to pray to God for these people. And he was so fervent about it, he said in 9:2 “I could wish that I myself were accursed” that they might be saved. And he showed that this was really his heart, by the way that he continually prayed for people, and traveled about telling people about Jesus and starting new churches. See, the truth is, you don’t believe what you SAY you believe; you believe what you live out, and do something about. 

Charles Peace was a life-long violent criminal, who was convicted of murder in England in 1879. On the morning of his execution, Peace ate a last meal breakfast of eggs and salty bacon, and awaited the coming of the public executioner, William Marwood. He was escorted on the death-walk by the prison chaplain, who was reading aloud from a book entitled The Consolations of Religion, which mentioned the Biblical teachings about heaven and hell. While the chaplain was reading, Peace suddenly burst out: “Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worth while living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!” 

He had a good point, didn’t he? What we say, and what we do, about people who don’t know Christ, shows us what we really believe about the Bible. Listen: the truth is, God is not asking you to crawl across England from coast to coast on broken glass. You crawling on broken glass isn’t going to help save anyone. But God is calling you to take seriously what you say you believe — and to pray. 

Now after you’ve prayed, He’s going to show you some other things to do as well. We’ll talk some more about that later — and we’re going to have a special Evangelism Training Day on Sunday, Oct. 7 — be sure to put that on your calendar NOW and do not miss being here that day! I think this could be a life-changing Sunday for some of us in the way we share Christ with others.  

God’s not calling you to crawl anywhere on broken glass; but He is calling you to pray. He’s calling you to take this verse, and make it yours: “My heart’s desire, and my prayer to God for them, is for their salvation.”

He’s calling you to make it personal: 

— put the name of YOUR husband or wife in this verse;

— put the name of YOUR friend in it

— to put the name of YOUR child in it

Pray to God and just say: 

“My heart’s desire, and my prayer to You, is for _____’s salvation.”

Is that your heart? Would you make that your prayer today?  Let’s bow our heads together … 

INVITATION:

— I believe God is calling many of us today to take this verse and make it personal, and bring some loved one on your heart, and on your lips, to Him. Bring that person to the Lord this morning and make your prayer: “God, my heart’s desire, and my prayer to You, is for _____’s salvation.”  

— But there are others of us who need to come and pray, not because someone is on your heart, but because someone ISN’T. Because if you were honest, you’d say you really don’t have much of a heart for anyone’s salvation. You do really believe, but somehow it’s gotten pushed back. Truthfully, you’d say you get more upset about who loses a football game or if someone ran over your flower bed, than you do over somebody’s salvation. And you need to come before God this morning and be honest and pray: “Lord, to tell the truth, my heart does NOT desire anyone’s salvation very much; soften my heart. Will in me; work in me; MAKE this verse true for me: MAKE “my heart’s desire and my prayer to You to be for their salvation.” 

— Or maybe you’d say, I am the one who needs salvation today!  I don’t know for sure that I am going to heaven. If that’s you, call out the Lord to save you right now, in Jesus’ name  …

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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