Before that recent, fateful Tuesday in the United States, there were all kinds of pleas made for people to pray. Since that day, more calls have gone out for people to pray. Whatever side of the political landscape one falls on, prayer seems to be the fall-back position for many. Certainly prayer is the right thing to do before the ballot is cast (Acts 1:23-26). And the Scriptures remind us to pray for those in authority over us (1 Timothy 2:2) after the ballots have been cast and the decision made.
Paul was a man of prayer. In his letter to the believers in Rome he wrote: "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, who, I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you" (Romans 1:8-10).
The apostle would eventually get his wish, though it would lead to his own execution.
Yesterday, during our morning service, the congregation prayed for the persecuted church. I am interested to see how Paul framed his statement when he told the Roman believers that he prayed for them constantly. Their faith was significant, so much so that everywhere Paul went people were talking about it.
The persecution of Christians in the Roman world was a popular sport. In many parts of the world today it continues to be that. Sometimes it is public and brutal—beatings, imprisonment, and beheadings. Sometimes it is more subtle, but equally brutal—ignoring the plight of Christian families in refugee camps and giving preference to others.
Paul remembered the believers in Rome—not just on one special day in the calendar year. He remembered them constantly and thanked God for the strength of their faith to stand up against the evil perpetrated against them. He wanted more than anything to join them so that he could encourage that faith.
This particular section of Romans 1 ends with Paul's declaration that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew and then for the Gentile" (1:16). He was willing to die for that gospel, as he knew the Roman believers also were.
Blessed by the freedoms I enjoy because I live in Canada, I often forget those who don't enjoy those same privileges. So the message is as much to me as it is to anyone—remember in prayer those who are persecuted that their faith remain strong. And pray for the political authorities in countries where religious freedom is still preserved, that "...we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Timothy 2:2).