The gospel teaches us to love God and others (v.9 – 10a)
God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10in my prayers at all times; NIV
The Apostle Paul has already poured out his heart in the preceding verse in thanks to God for the Roman believers. Here, he continues in that line to emphasize his relationship with the Roman believers. Since Paul had not yet been to Rome at this time (v. 10b), he probably had not met the majority of believers there. But the Apostle knows one or two sure ways in which he is related to the Roman believers. He is related to them through the gospel and through prayer. Whatever Paul says in this verse must not be taken as merely a piece of information. Whatever he says here serves as an assurance to the believers in Rome of the origin, focus, means, and results of he gospel that he preaches. Paul is giving assurance to the believers in Rome. They needed not doubt his claims about the desire to come and they certainly needed not to doubt the fact that he prays for them.
Paul moves on to describe the manner in which he serves God: He serves God with his whole heart or with his spirit. The wholehearted service to God in this context can be described as twofold: First, Paul preaches the gospel of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Secondly, he offers prayer. For Paul, praying for the Romans is part of the wholehearted service to God. In Romans 1:1, Paul described himself as “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” This description comes to practice in the current verse. On one end, Paul is preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people and on the other end, he is standing in prayer before God on behalf of the people to whom he must minister.
Here, the inseparable relationship between prayer and the preaching of the gospel also emerges: The gospel shapes and informs prayer life, and prayer empowers and fuels the gospel. Paul prays in light of the gospel for the impact of the gospel in the lives of its hearers and doers. Prayer is in fact the means of preaching and living out the gospel.
By making God his witness, Paul confirms the centrality of prayer in his ministry. He does not have the “I will pray for you [later]” or “I will pray about it [later]” approach. He prays, and prays constantly. Undoubtedly, prayer is Paul’s lifestyle and his ministry is fueled by prayer. He affirms this in verse 10a when he uses the phrase “I constantly remember you in my prayers at all times.” That he does it constantly raises an awareness among the Romans that Paul really has them in mind. This is great encouragement for the Christians living in the city of Rome, which is not very Christian-friendly.
Further, when Paul makes God his witness here, he demonstrates his sincerity. His prayers are coming from the center of his inner being; from his spirit. Paul is willing to say “the God who knows all things and discerns every person’s heart and thought (Romans 11:33-34, Jeremiah 17:10; 23:24) is my witness.” The only way he could say that is if he indeed prayed.
We can learn at least two things from the words and life of Paul here:
Firstly, Paul challenges us to love God in life and in service. The first part of the verse shows us the extent of his commitment to the ministry of the gospel. Serving God meant everything to Paul. He totally offered himself. When he mentions “wholehearted ministry” with God as his witness, he challenges us to a life of “love the LORD your God with all your all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Matthew 22:37-38, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27). Our wholehearted, sincere, and purely motivated service glorifies and pleases God. Paul understood this when he later wrote in Romans “… in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship (NIV).”
Secondly, the Apostle teaches us a life of constant prayer shaped by the gospel. When he tells the Romans “I constantly remember you in my prayers at all times”, he is teaching us to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22:39-40, Mark 12:31). This is the power of the gospel – it is an avenue of love. God shares His love in the gospel (John 3:15, Romans 5:8) and we participate in doing so when we obey it. There is no better expression of love than to pray the best prayers for each other in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is interesting that Paul described the Roman believers as “those whose faith was being reported all over the world.” But here, he mentions that he prays for them constantly. This is a testament that a believer’s life is one that requires constant prayer. Believers cannot graduate from the need of prayer as long as they live in the fallen world and and in frail bodies. What an encouragement to be reminded here by the Apostle that we can pray not only for ourselves but for others too. If we make that a lifestyle, we can rest assured that as we pray for others, others are praying for us. This is what makes believers a family of God. The gospel calls us to pray for fellow believers and for unbelievers too (1Tomothy 2:1-2).