Appendix to Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

You're reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

The following five messages were written midway through the writing of the this series on renewing your mind.  They are included to highlight the importance of keeping your mind focused on God’s perspective on your life at all times.

May God bless you as you read these additional messages and may God give you the desires of your heart as you keep putting your faith in Him!

(Use the “Menu for Romans” to find these 5 special messages in the Appendix)

Conclusion: “Brain Washing” In The Best Possible Way!

You're reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-2

My son is came home from Bible college a few weeks ago and said some people in his town think that all the kids who go to his school are brainwashed.  My son said, “They’re right!  We are!”

Their brains are washed in the best possible way, washed by God Himself, cleansed by His Holy Spirit, and renewed to look more and more like the mind of Christ every day.

As we wrap up this study of Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, I wanted to give you some final thoughts on how to keep your “brain washed” in the best possible way, too.

First, I want to encourage you to keep reading the Word of God.

My wife has been going through chemotherapy the last few months and spending a lot of time reading and memorizing God’s Word.  Once in awhile she’ll read a newspaper or magazine article about cancer and its devastating effects.  It always reminds her how much more hope and joy she has whenever she reads the Bible!  So she picks up her Bible again and starts reading it instead.  We could all do more of that!

As God said to the Israelites:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).

Some people might think that reading the Bible all the time is like burying your head in the sand and ignoring the problems in your life.  But there’s a difference between burying your head in the sand and burying your head in God’s Word!  Sand leads to suffocation and death, whereas the Bible leads to fresh air and life!

If you want to keep your mind as fresh and clean as possible, keep reading God’s Word as much as possible, every day, many times a day.  A pastor was once asked which version of the Bible was the best.  His answer?  “The one you read the most.”  Amen!

Second, I want to encourage you to keep surrounding yourself with other Christ-minded believers so they can “re-mind” you of God’s Word, too.

I know that there may be times when you may not feel like going to church.  I know that you may not feel like going to Bible studies and getting to know complete strangers.  I know that once you’ve gotten to know those complete strangers, they may do things that annoy you, or irritate you, or make you wonder why you ever bothered going at all.

But for all the potential pitfalls of interacting with others, there’s nothing more powerful than having a Christian brother or sister encourage you in your faith and life.

As the writer of Ecclesiastes said:

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Renewing your mind is hard work, but God doesn’t want you to do it alone.  He wants you to rely on Him, and He wants you to rely on His people, the body of Christ, who all share the same head, Jesus Christ.

We got a package in the mail last week that made us cry.  It came from a church we used to attend about 20 years ago.  In the package were a stack of cards from the church members and a check from the church.  We were so overwhelmed by this expression of love and care that we couldn’t even open the stack of cards.

When we finally did open them, our tears began to flow again—tears of joy and thankfulness for their thoughts and prayers for us during this time in our lives.  It was such a reminder to us of how the body of Christ works to lift us up in our time of need.

While it can be hard at times to invest your time in getting to know other Christ-minded believers, it’s an investment that will pay dividends for you and for them for years to come… for all eternity, in fact!

So first, if you want to keep renewing your mind, keep reading God’s Word.  Second, keep surrounding yourself with other Christ-minded believers so they can remind you of God’s Word, too.  And third, always remember that God LOVES you, He is FOR you, and He can work ALL THINGS for good in your life!

When I started writing this study almost a year ago, I had no idea what the year might hold.  I had no idea how my life was about to change as my wife was diagnosed with cancer.  Yet, as I’ve been rereading the whole book of Romans again this week, and rereading each of my messages from this past year, I’ve been reminded again just how much God loves me, is for me, and can work all things for good in my life, too.

And I’m positive that God loves you, is for you, and can work all things for good in your life.  How can I be so sure?  You don’t take my word for it!  You can take His!  Here are just a few reminders again of what Paul said in his letter to the Romans:

“But God demonstrates HIS OWN LOVE FOR US in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:3).

“If God is FOR us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).

“And we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

If you’ve read with me this far, I’m sure that you love God and are called according to His purpose, too, so these words apply to you just as much as they applied to the Romans to whom Paul was writing!  Let God’s Word sink deep into your mind today.  Let Him speak words of love, words of support, and words of encouragement to you every day.

If you need a good “brain washing,” I’d encourage you to take some time to read and reread the whole book of Romans again (then take some more time to read and reread the whole Bible again!)  There’s nothing better to help you renew your mind than to wash it with the Word of God.  Surround yourself with other Christ-minded believers who can speak God’s Word into your life as well.  And always remember that God LOVES you, is FOR you, and can work ALL THINGS for your good.

As I said at the beginning of this study, one of the most powerful forces in the world in an idea.  Revolutions of all kinds have been sparked by mere ideas and even the smallest ideas can grow to either define… or destroy you.  That’s why it’s so important to make sure your ideas are in line with God’s ideas.

As Paul encouraged the Romans, let me encourage you:

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for speaking to us through this amazing book called Romans.  Thank You for Paul’s faithfulness to write down what he learned from You so he could share it with others.  Help us to be faithful with what we’ve learned so we can apply it to our own lives and to help others apply it to theirs as well.  Wash our minds, cleanse our hearts, and fill us with Your peace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection

1. Read Romans 12:1-2.  The term “brainwashing” is often used in a negative way, referring to someone who has been convinced of something that is untrue.  But in light of today’s study, how can “washing your brain” with God’s Word work in your favor?

2. Who are some people in your life who are so filled with God’s Word that it seems to flow out of them whenever they speak?  What could you do to spend more time learning from and growing together with them?

3. Read Romans 8:28-39.  What verses from this passage stick out in your mind that are particularly helpful to you in your life right now?

4. Skim through the book of Romans again, or take an hour or so to read the whole book again.  Write down any words or phrases that God may be wanting to speak to you.  Hold onto those words and let God use them in the days ahead to continually renew your mind.

Lesson 38: Believing And Obeying God

You're reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

Scripture Reading: Romans 16:21-27

Today we’ve reached the conclusion of the book of Romans, the final words of Paul’s letter that punctuate his goal for writing it.  These words also underscore the purpose for which God wants you to renew your mind:  so that you might believe and obey Him.  Here’s what Paul said:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25-27).

Paul often concluded his letters by giving praise to God, just as he did above in this letter to the Romans.  Sandwiched in between his words of praise, he also mentions the purpose for which the mystery of Jesus Christ has been revealed:  so that all nations might believe and obey Him.  This is God’s desire for all people in all nations, including you and me—that we would believe and obey Him.

As I’ve mentioned in some earlier lessons, there’s a difference between believing in God, and believing God.  You can believe in God, yet still not believe Him—still not be convinced about who He is and what He can do in and through your life.  God wants you to believe in Him, for sure.  But He also wants you to believe Him when He tells you something regarding your life.  Then He wants you to take action based on that belief.

Believing and obeying God is a major part of renewing your mind.  God wants you to renew your mind so that you can bring your thinking in line with His.  When you do this, you’ll be better able to believe and obey Him, regardless of whatever life may throw your way.

I’ve been praying quite a bit this week for my wife Lana, who, as I’ve mentioned before, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer a few months ago.  Apart from a miracle, the doctors say that this type of cancer is incurable and will shorten her life considerably.  As you can imagine, our faith has been put to the test on a daily basis regarding what we believe about God and what He is doing through all of this.  Yet with all that’s going on, we continue to find God’s peace in the midst of it.

How?  Because God has spent considerable time and effort over the years filling our minds with His thoughts about us, that He is for us, not against us, and that He will work all things for good, even in this.

At the risk of being extra-vulnerable, I’d like to share one of my journal entries with you from earlier this week.  I often write down my questions for God in my journal, and then listen for what He might be saying in response.  While I’m not always sure if the thoughts I attribute to God are really mine or His, they do give me a starting point for helping me think through what He might be trying to say to me.  With that disclaimer, here’s what I felt God was saying to me earlier this week regarding His will for Lana and her healing, most of which are thoughts that are based firmly in what He’s already written in His Word:

“Eric, you know My will is that she be healed, that she have no more pain, and that she never be separated from you.  You also know that in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.  Peace I give you, peace I leave with you, not as the world gives, but My peace I give you.  I know you believe I could heal her in an instant.  But I also know that you believe I can work all things for good, ALL THINGS, no matter what happens.  Eric, I have prayed for you that your faith may not waver.  Yes, I do give, and yes, I do take away, but I know and I trust that you will still praise Me.  Your faith is, of course, more precious to Me than gold.  Yes, pray for her healing, but also pray for her heart to be at peace.  Pray that she will continue to know that I am walking through this with her every step of the way.”

At that point, I asked God for a verse that might help me express this dichotomy I feel inside me, that while I trust in God fully for Lana’s healing, I also trust Him whatever the outcome may be. The verse that came to mind was from the book of Job.

While I sometimes think it’s cliche to think of Job when things are going bad in life, I also realize there’s a reason why people turn to Job when things go awry:  because no matter what happened to Job, he still gave praise to God!

The Bible says that Job was the greatest man among all the people of the East.  He was blessed with seven sons and three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a large number of servants.

He was upright and blameless in all he did, even praying for his sons and daughters on a regular basis, offering sacrifices on their behalf in the early morning, just in case they might have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.

Yet for all his faith and all the good that he had done, tragedy struck.  In a single day, he lost almost everything with which God had previously blessed him:  his sons and daughters, all of his livestock and almost all of his servants.  Overwhelmed with grief, Job tore his robe and shaved his head.

But what encourages me about this passage is that through it all, Job still trusted God.  After all these terrible things happened to Job, the Bible says:

“Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:20-22).

Even when life turned against him, Job still gave glory to God.  I can see why people might lose their faith when tragedy strikes.  But I can also see, from this story of Job, that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Job had no guarantees of what the future held, but he knew who held his future and he trusted Him implicitly.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he didn’t know what his future held, either.  As we learn from the book of Acts, Paul’s future had a fair share of tragedy as well.  But through it all, Paul trusted God implicitly.   He knew that God was able to strengthen him through Jesus Christ for whatever he might face and that God would be glorified through it all, no matter what happened.  As Paul said in his closing words to the Romans:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you [to strengthen you] by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen”

I don’t know what you’re going through today, but whatever it is, don’t let fear and doubt overtake you.  Take it all to Christ instead.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“…take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b).

No matter what comes your way, take it to Christ.  No matter what people say, take it to Christ.  No matter what life throws at you, take it to Christ. Let Christ speak to you in all situations.  Let Him have the last word.  Let Him override anything that anyone might say to you that is contrary to His Word.

The truth is that God loves you very much.  He is for you.  And He will work all things for your good, when you love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Whenever a thought comes your way that goes against what God says in His Word, ask Him to strengthen you through Jesus Christ.  Ask Him to renew your mind and to fill your thoughts with His thoughts, giving you the faith to believe His Words, so you can walk in obedience to whatever He calls you to do.

In whatever you do, keep glorifying God and enjoying Him through it all, which, according to the historic Westminster Confession of Faith, is the chief end of man:

“To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

As Paul said to the Romans, let me say to you:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… so that all nations might believe and obey Him—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for being able to establish us in our faith and help us to be obedient to You.  Renew our minds again this week, and help us to take every thought captive that sets itself up against You.  Fill us with faith, help us to walk in obedience, and may your name be glorified through it all.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection

1. Read Romans 16:25-27.  What is God’s goal for the nations, according to this passage of Scripture?

2. Why is it so important to God that we believe and obey Him?  What difference can it make to Him, to us, and to others?

3. In what areas of your life could you use some strengthening in your faith today?

4. Is there a particular act of obedience that God might be calling you to do this week?  Ask Him to give you the strength and faith to do it.

Lesson 37: Being Wise And Innocent

You're reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

Scripture Reading: Romans 16:1-20

Once you’ve worked hard to renew your mind, God wants you to keep it renewed.  And one of the best ways to keep it renewed is to be careful of the company you keep.

Believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t have your best interests in mind.  They’ll use smooth talk and flattery to try to lead you astray from the teaching you’ve learned—teaching that has helped you in many ways in your life.

In the final chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul warns about such people.  Paul says:

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.  The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:17-19).

If you look at this paragraph closely, you’ll find some secrets for how to detect when people are trying to lead you astray for the wrong reasons.

First, Paul urged the Romans, “to watch out for those who those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.”

God had taken a great deal of time to teach the Christians in Rome good solid truths about Himself and the Bible, and Paul wanted them to hold onto those truths.  In the same way, God may have taken a great deal of time to teach you some good solid truths about Himself and the Bible and God wants you to hold onto those truths, too.

If someone comes along and tries to teach you about a “new” truth, or “higher” way of looking at God and the Bible, be wise about how you listen to them.  Take what they say back to God and the Bible to see what He says about it in His Word.  While there’s value in keeping an “open mind,” you don’t want to keep it so open that all the good teaching you’ve already learned falls out!

Be a good student of the Bible, like the people in the city of Berea, who took even what Paul said and examined it carefully according to what they had already learned.  The Bible says:

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Second, Paul gave the Romans some simple advice about what to do when they came across people who were teaching them things that were contrary to what they had already learned:  “Keep away from them.”

Why?  Because the company you keep matters.  If you don’t choose your friends wisely, Satan will be glad to choose some for you.  Satan knows that one of the best ways to lead you astray is to put people in your life who will pull you over to his side.

Paul gave a similar warning in his letter to the Corinthians when he said:

“Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33b).

How can you know who’s “bad company”?  By studying not just what they’re teaching, but by studying their character as well.  Paul alludes to this when he talks about the motives of those who might try to lead the Romans astray.  Paul says:  “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

Although it’s not always apparent right away, a little study of the people around you can go a long way in determining their true motives, whether they’re doing what they’re doing to serve the Lord Christ, or to serve their own appetites.

It makes me think of a girl who falls in love with a boy just because he tells her, “You’re beautiful.  I love you.  And I want to do something special to make you happy.”  All his smooth talk and flattery may work in his favor, but it may not work in hers.  If the girl were wise, she would study not only the words that are being spoken, but the motives of the person who is speaking those words.

If you’re wise, you’ll do the same: anytime someone tries to speak something into your life that runs contrary to what you’ve already learned, it’s helpful to study not only the words that are being spoken, but the motives of the person who is speaking those words.

I think it’s interesting to note that leading up to his warning about those who might lead the Romans astray, Paul begins his chapter by listing some “good characters” and what made them noteworthy or admirable, people that Paul knew personally in Rome.  For instance, he says:

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe… for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them… 

“Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

“Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you” (Romans 16:1a,2b,5b,6).

The list goes on and on, as Paul commends to them person after person:

“Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

“Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.

“Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

“Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ… 

“Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord… 

“Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” (Romans 16:7-10a,12a,13).

If you want to learn something about a person, a personal recommendation like this goes a long way.

In choosing an eye doctor one time, Lana and I talked with a friend who worked for an eye doctor.  Our friend told us that when her doctor needed a doctor, he chose a particular man in town, having seen his practice long enough and knowing his character was strong enough that he trusted this other doctor with his own eyes.  So when we needed an eye doctor, we were able to benefit from his very personal recommendation.

Contrast this with another eye doctor we went to visit a few weeks earlier who, with his smooth talk and flattery, almost convinced us to come to him.  But  when we went home and looked into his life and practice a little more, we found out that his credentials weren’t quite as good as what he made us believe, and the bad recommendations we read about him just sealed our resolve to search for another doctor.

This isn’t to say that we might not be led astray at times by personal recommendations, too.  But many times, if we’ll take the extra effort to study the person as well as what they’re trying to say to us, we can save ourselves from being led astray.

Third, Paul concludes his warning with these words: “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”

Paul was full of joy over the obedience of the Romans.  Everyone had heard about it, he said, and he didn’t want anyone to take that away from them.  “Be wise about what is good,” he said, “and innocent about what is evil.”

Again, these are similar to words he wrote in his letter to the Corinthians:

“In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20b).

Paul wanted the Romans—and the Corinthians—to put their minds to work, being wise about what was good.  At the same time, he wanted them to be like children in regards to evil, having nothing to do with it and being as innocent as possible.

What’s the end result of all of this?  As Paul said at the end of his warning::

 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

With all the work that goes into renewing your mind, be sure to keep it renewed by being wise about what is good and innocent of evil.  Study the teaching of those around you—and the character of those teaching it—before allowing their teachings into your mind.  As you protect your mind, God will protect you, and keep Satan at bay.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for reminding us to stay true to what we’ve been taught about You and Your Word.  Help us to study deeply any ideas, and the people behind those ideas, that are presented to us that conflict with what we’ve already heard from You.  Help us be wise and innocent so we can keep our minds pure.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection

1. Read Romans 16:1-20.  What are some of the words that Paul uses to describe those whom he trusts in Rome, compared to the words he uses to describe those who might be trying to deceive their minds?

2. Can you think of some times when you’ve been led astray by smooth talkers who’ve been serving their own selfish interests?

3. Can you think of other times when you’ve been blessed by the wisdom and personal recommendations of true friends?

4. What are some ways this week that you can “be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil”?

Lesson 36: Enlisting Others To Pray For You

You're reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading ROMANS: LESSONS IN RENEWING YOUR MIND, by Eric Elder, featuring forty inspiring devotionals based on one of the most life-changing books in the Bible. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

Scripture Reading: Romans 15:30-33

Are you struggling with something in your life today?  If so, I’d like to encourage you to do something special:  enlist others to pray for you.

If you think asking for prayer is a sign of weakness, think again!  Asking for prayer is one of the strongest things you could ever do—and one of the best ways to keep you strong.

The apostle Paul knew this secret and often called on others to pray for him, as he did near the end of his letter to the Romans.  Paul said:

“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed” (Romans 15:30-32).

Paul asked for prayer with boldness.  He urged the Romans to pray for him, “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit.”  And he didn’t just ask for a blanket prayer to cover him in all ways at all times.  He asked them to pray for him in specific ways, particularly in those areas where he struggled the most.  He asked that he would be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that his service in Jerusalem would be acceptable to the saints there, and that he would be able to come to them in Rome with joy and together with them be refreshed.

The dangers that faced Paul on his trip to Jerusalem—and then on to Rome—were real and significant.  If you read about his trip in the book of Acts (chapters 21-28), you’ll see that Paul was captured, imprisoned and threatened with death on several occasions, not counting the shipwreck that obliterated his ship along the way.  Paul needed prayer and I have no doubt that the prayers of the Christians in Rome helped to sustain him all along the way.

But it’s not easy to ask others to pray for you.  I know.  Just last week I was celebrating my 23rd wedding anniversary in New York City with my superb wife, Lana.  We had an awesome time, filled with fun, romance and a wonderful walk through Central Park.  But on the last day of the trip, I got sick—and not just a little sick, but a violent, wrenching sickness like I haven’t experienced in a long time.

At one point, Lana asked if she should call a few people and ask them to pray for me.  I said, “No, I’ll be all right.”  I hoped it would just pass quickly, and I didn’t want anyone to worry, as they knew we were on our special anniversary trip.  But as the hours passed and I was just getting worse and not better, I finally agreed to have Lana made a few calls.

Although the sickness persisted throughout the night and on into the next few days, I felt different immediately just knowing that a few other people were praying for me and checking in on me from time to time.  I was also able to see the fact that I was sick in a new way, realizing that my body was doing just what it should do in trying to forcefully expel whatever had maliciously entered into it.

It turned out I had the flu and the healing process that God had begun on that first day finally prevailed.  Thankfully, I’m almost back to full strength again.  Unfortunately for Lana, she got what I had a few days later, so we had to enlist others once again to pray for her!

The reason I bring this up today is to let you know that I understand what it’s like to need prayer, but not want to ask for it—especially at those times when we feel the weakest.  But the truth is, without prayer, we’ll just get weaker and weaker.  With prayer, God can give us the strength we need to go on.

I also wanted to tell you this story because prayer not only changes things, it changes the way you look at things.  Even though I still had to walk through the rest of my sickness, I was able to realize that the very things that was making me feel sick—the expelling of whatever had made its way into my system— was the very thing that was bringing my healing.  By being able to look at what was happening to me differently, I was able to better endure the rest of the time that I had to go through it.

Prayer really can renew your mind, and by enlisting others to pray for you, you can renew your mind even faster.

If there’s an area in your life where you’re struggling today, I want to encourage you to do as Paul did and enlist others to join you in your struggle—through prayer.  As Paul said,

“I urge you… to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”

There are all kinds of struggles you might be facing right now:  whether they’re struggles with lust or secret sins, fear or doubts, real or imaginary dangers, hardships, relationships or bothersome thoughts.  The list is endless.  The beauty of prayer is that it can address every single struggle you could possibly face.

One of my friends and mentors says that everyone needs a prayer team.  You don’t have to be in full-time ministry, or going through a particular crisis, to ask people to pray for you on a regular basis.  You could be an expectant mother or a struggling student, a successful architect or an aspiring teacher.  You could be married or single, with kids or without.  You could be needing money or managing your money.  You could be traveling full-time or at home full-time.  Whatever you’re doing and whatever you’re going through, you can benefit by enlisting others to pray for you.

Not sure who to ask?  You might ask a friend, or a co-worker, or a neighbor.  You might ask a pastor or a priest.  You might even ask someone you don’t know, like Lana and I did last week in New York, when we were visiting some churched there.  At one church, I sensed the man sitting next to me was truly “a believer.”  I could tell from his “Amens” that he not only believed in God, but he believed in the power of God.  So after the service, I asked if he would pray for us.  He was not only glad to pray, but he invited us to dinner, which we unfortunately had to decline because of our schedule.

At another church, we were talking to a man outside the church before the service.  Afterward, we reconnected again.  We asked if we could pray for him and then he returned the favor and prayed for us.

For years now, we’ve been asking for and benefiting from the prayers of others.  We’ve asked for prayer from family and friends, small groups and Sunday School classes.  We asked for prayer when we were single, when we were dating, when we got married, and when we started having children.

When Lana was diagnosed with cancer this year, she set up a blog to keep others updated and let them know how they could pray for us.  The effects have been tremendous already, as the prayers of others have given us an abundance of strength, wisdom, healing and encouragement.

If you’re going through a struggle in your life, you don’t have to go through it alone.  Enlist others to join you in your struggle by praying to God for you.  If you’re not sure who to ask for prayer, or just want to get some additional prayers from believers who love to pray, we have a special prayer page at The Ranch website setup just for that.  Just visit www.theranch.org to find it.

By the way, the apostle Paul did eventually make it to Rome, just as he had asked the Romans to pray for him.

It may not have been exactly the way he expected, or the timing he expected, but he did get there, through God’s strength—and the prayers of others.  As Luke recorded in the last chapter of the book of Acts:

“When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him… For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30-31).

God answers prayer, and He loves when we enlist others to pray with us.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for showing us the value of enlisting others to pray for us.  Help us to reach out to others when we’re struggling so that we won’t become weaker and weaker, but grow stronger and stronger each day through Your strength.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection

1. Read Romans 15:30-33.  What are some reasons people might be hesitant to ask for prayer?

2. What difference could it make if you enlisted others to pray for you?

3. In what areas are you struggling right now where you could ask others to pray for you?

4. Who are some specific people that might be willing to pray for you?