rejoice in hope (12:12a)
Living the supernatural life inevitably brings opposition from the world and sometimes even sparks resentment by fellow Christians. Even after years of faithful service to the Lord, some see few, if any, apparent results from their labors. Without hope we could never survive. “For in hope we have been saved,” Paul has already explained, “but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Rom. 8:24–25).
Rejoicing in that hope, we know that, if we are “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” our “toil is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). We can therefore look forward to one day hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). We know that “in the future there is laid up for [us] the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to [us] on that day; and … to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
persevere in tribulation (12:12b)
It is because we can rejoice in hope that we also can persevere in tribulation, whatever its form or severity. Because we have perfect assurance concerning the ultimate outcome of our lives, we are able to persist against any obstacle and endure any suffering. That is why Paul could declare with perfect confidence that “we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:2–5).
be devoted to prayer (12:12c)
Doubtless one of the reasons the Lord allows His children to go through tribulation is to drive them to Himself. The believer who has the strength to persevere in trials, afflictions, adversity, and misfortune—sometimes even deprivation and destitution—will pray more than occasionally. He will be devoted to prayer, in communion with his Lord as a constant part of his life. So should we all be, no matter what the circumstances of our lives.
Proskartereō (devoted) means literally to be strong toward something, and it also carries the ideas of steadfast and unwavering. It was with such devoted … prayer that early Christians worshiped, both before and after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14; 2:42). It was to enable the apostles to devote themselves “to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4) that deacons were first appointed in the church.
Devoted, steadfast prayer should be as continual a part of a Christian’s spiritual life as breathing is a part of his physical life. The victorious Christian prays “with the spirit and … with the mind” (1 Cor. 14:15). As he prays with his own spirit, he also prays “in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20; cf. Eph. 6:18). He prays “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Paul therefore admonished Timothy to have “the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands” (1 Tim. 2:8).
12 The nature of “hope” (elpis, GK 1828) as confident expectation is something that should always be the cause of rejoicing. But because hope is in reference to something not yet seen, it can often weaken instead of providing the strength that it should. Hope is meant to sustain the servant of Christ and enable him or her to be “patient in affliction” (thlipsis, GK 2568). Paul brought together the same constellation of ideas earlier in 5:3–4. The last item in these verses is the Christian’s need to be “faithful [proskarterountes, GK 4674; lit., “persevering”] in prayer.” Regular prayer, of course, is a characteristic of the vibrant Christian. In brief, the thrust of vv. 11–12 is that Christians are called to live in a way that is consistent with the grace they have received.
12 The three admonitions in this verse are closely related in both style and content. For hope, endurance, and prayer are natural partners. Even as we “rejoice in hope,” gaining confidence from God’s promise that we will share the glory of God, we recognize the “down side”: the path to the culmination of hope is strewn with tribulations. Paul, ever the realist, knows this; and so here, as he does elsewhere, he quickly moves from hope to the need for endurance.49 At the same time, we realize that our ability to continue to rejoice and to “bear up under” our tribulations is dependent on the degree to which we heed Paul’s challenge to “persist in prayer.” (Note that Paul moves from hope to endurance to prayer also in Rom. 8:24–27.)
12 The next three are also closely related: “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer”. Hope has reference to the future (cf. 8:24, 25). The believer must never have his horizon bounded by what is seen and temporal (cf. vs. 2). The salvation now in possession is so conditioned by hope that without hope its character is denied; “for in hope were we saved” (8:24). The hope is hope of the glory of God (5:2) and it is one of unalloyed, consummated bliss for the believer. Hope realized will be a morning without clouds; there will be no mixture of good and evil, joy and sorrow. Hence “rejoicing in hope” even now. Hope is not here, however, the object to which rejoicing is directed. In Philippi’s words, “the summons meant is not to joy at hope … but to joy by means or in virtue of hope”. The hope is the cause or ground of the joy. However tried by affliction the reaction appropriate in view of hope is rejoicing. There is no comfort in sorrow except as it is illumined by hope. How eloquent to this effect is Paul’s word elsewhere to believers as they weep over the deceased, “ye sorrow not, even as others, who do not have hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
“Patient in tribulation.” As Philippi again points out, this is not enduring tribulation but stedfast in tribulation. Our attention had been already drawn to the tribulations characterizing the believer’s pilgrimage and to his attitude toward them (5:3). Paul refers frequently to the affliction which he himself endured (cf. 2 Cor. 1:4, 8; 2:4; 6:4; 7:4; Eph. 3:13; 1 Thess. 3:7). It is also noteworthy how often with different aspects of life in view the apostle’s teaching takes account of the believers’ afflictions (cf. 8:35; 2 Cor. 1:4; 4:17; 8:2; 1 Thess. 1:6; 3:3; 2 Thess. 1:4). These often take the form of persecution and we are reminded that “all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persucution” (2 Tim. 3:12; cf. Rom. 8:35; 2 Cor. 12:10; 2 Thess. 1:4; 2 Tim. 3:11) and that “through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. Rev. 7:14). The exhortation of the present text evinces the need for constancy and perseverance in what is so pervasive in the life of faith.
The exacting demands involved in the preceding point up the relevance of the next injunction: “continuing stedfastly in prayer” (cf. Acts 1:14; 6:4; Col. 4:2). The measure of perseverance in the midst of tribulation is the measure of our diligence in prayer. Prayer is the means ordained of God for the supply of grace sufficient for every exigency and particularly against the faintheartedness to which affliction tempts us.
It is well to observe the interdependence of the virtues enjoined in this trilogy. How dismal would tribulation be without hope (cf. 1 Cor. 15:19) and how defeatist would we be in persecution without the resources of hope and patience conveyed to us through prayer. The sequence of David’s thought reflects the apostle’s exhortations: “Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands towards thy holy oracle … Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth and with my song will I praise him” (Psalm 28:2, 6, 7).
Ver. 12.—Patience, hope, and prayer. In the preceding verse the active, energetic side of religion is presented with vivacity and completeness. And this is perhaps the most important of all the trustful results of true Christianity. It was an end worthy of the Divine interposition to introduce amongst men the purpose and the power to serve the Lord with fervour and with diligence. Yet this is not all which our religion does for us. Our life is not altogether in our own hands; we cannot control and govern all that concerns us. We have all to learn the lesson that Divine providence has appointed for us; not only to work, but to submit; that we have not only to serve, but to suffer. True religion must give us, not only a law and impulse for fulfilling life’s duties, but also a power by which we shall endure life’s calamities and weakness. However our natural character may make active exertion congenial, however our lot may be, on the whole, one of cheerful and devoted service; there comes a time to all—a time, it may be, of sickness, or of infirmity, of calamity, or of old age—when another aspect of religion must be realized; when we must turn to Christ for grace, that we may be found “in hope joyful, in trial patient, in prayer unwearied.”
- To Christians tribulation is Divine discipline. The text implies, not only that the human lot is characterized by affliction, but that affliction is the occasion of the calling forth of Christian virtues. There would scarcely be such an emotion as hope unless the present were a condition from which (in some respects) it is desirable to be released, or, at all events, a condition susceptible of great improvement. Unless we had something to bear, there would be no scope for the virtue of patience. If all things were as we could wish them, if we had nothing to contend with, if nothing occurred to make us feel our own helplessness—in such case prayer would scarcely be felt to be urgently, or at all events constantly, necessary. Life is a very different thing to those who are enlightened by revelation, as this verse conclusively shows us. How truly Christian are these precepts, and how truly Christians those who fulfil them, appears, if we think of the heathen, and realize how they failed alike in patience, in hope, and in prayer. Philosophers inculcated patience in adversity, but they imparted no principle or power which enabled people generally to cherish this disposition. The hope which the unenlightened pagans cherished respected this life alone, and even the wisest and best knew nothing of a hope of immortality so vivid and powerful as to awaken joy. Their prayers were either purely matter of custom and form, or, being addressed to deities morally imperfect and capricious, were faithless, fitful, and uninfluential even upon their own nature. It is the glory of Christianity to have changed all this. Among the lowliest of the Saviour’s followers we find fortitude in the endurance of affliction, arising from the conviction that it is the chastening of a Divine Father. Hope—especially as reaching beyond this brief existence, and as a mighty sustaining power—is a virtue distinctively Christian. Whilst prayer, instead of being an occasional, doubting, and unprofitable exercise, is the atmosphere the Christian breathes, the power which sustains him in all trouble, and which inspires within him a hope founded upon the faithfulness and the promises of his redeeming God.
- As respects the present, the Christian is supported by patience. Patience suffers without murmuring the ills which Providence permits. Patience waits for the relief which, in due time, Providence will send. Suffering and waiting complete this unusual virtue. It is not easy for any one to be patient; it is easier to work with diligence and strenuousness than to endure trial without complaint—than to wait until a power not our own shall bring the trial to a close. Christian patience is not a stoical aquiescence in the inevitable, upon the principle “What can’t be cured must be endured” 1. It is the result of a belief in a wise and merciful Providence. We do not bow to fate; we submit to a Father in heaven. Often we cannot understand why he should permit all that befalls us. But faith assures us that the counsels of God towards us are counsels of love. We cannot shut out from the universe the unseen hand that guides and governs all for our highest and eternal good. We believed in our own earthly father’s heart, though sense could never have told us of it; and similarly our souls are patient, because we are assured that a heavenly Parent cares for us, and strengthens and heals as well as smites. 2. It is the fruit of fellowship with Jesus. There was no quality for which our Saviour was more to be admired than for his patience. He was patient with the misunderstandings of his own disciples; he was patient with his enemies and murderers; he was patient under insult and agony. In all this he left us an example; and an apostle prays that God may direct our hearts into the patience of Christ. Many, through faith in the meek and patient Saviour, have been enabled by Divine grace to overcome a naturally impatient and imperious, hasty and violent temper. 3. It is a virtue in which we are instructed and practically disciplined by the Spirit of God. “Tribulation worketh patience.” The lesson is not learned all at once. Let not those dispositions to which it is not naturally easy be discouraged. “Let patience have its perfect work.” Patience is tried, not that it may give way, but that it may be established. It is the handiwork of the living Spirit; and the day shall come when the Maker shall pronounce this and all his works to be very good.
III. As respects the future, the Christian is inspired by hope. Now, hope is an easier and more natural exercise of the human spirit than is patience. A person may rebel and fret under present discipline, and yet may hope for better times.
“… the darkest day,
Live till to-morrow, will have passed away.”
The Christian’s hope is, however, far superior to any other. Whilst he has higher pleasures and stronger supports now, he has brighter prospects for the great hereafter. There are several elements of superiority in this hope. 1. It is well founded, resting as it does upon the faithful promises of God. God is designated “the God of hope.” Hence the Christian’s hope is not vague, but definite; it is not hesitating, but sure. 2. It is hope of grace for all the needs that are to come. This means hope of deliverance from all dangers, support under all difficulties, consolation under all troubles, guidance in all perplexities. 3. It is hope which reaches beyond this present life; such hope as none has been able to inspire but he who “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel.” Hope of rest, of victory, of a kingdom; a hope as “an anchor unto the soul, sure and steadfast, which entereth into that within the veil.” 4. It is hope which brings joy. Making the future real, bringing the future near, hope chases away the gloom and darkness, and creates a spiritual joy, pure, serene, and unspeakable. Thus, in the night, songs of joy and gladness ascend to heaven. “Patience worketh experience, and experience hope.”
- By prayer patience is perfected and hope inspired. It is evident that the admonition to prayer is introduced here with a special purpose in view. It is intended to point out to us that the demeanour here commended can only be maintained through cultivating a prayerful spirit. It is not easy, whilst pursuing this pilgrimage, to be patient amidst its difficulties, to be joyful when the present is dark, and the ray of hope alone illuminates the night. Still, though not easy, it is possible. That is to say, it becomes possible by prayer. Grace can be obtained, if sought in God’s appointed way; but it must be sought, not occasionally or fitfully, but steadfastly, perseveringly, constantly, habitually. This is reasonable enough. There is nothing in our condition that should put a close to our prayers, and nothing in our hearts. We do not become independent of the aid which such fellowship with Heaven alone can bring. There is every inducement, in the declarations and promises of God’s Word, to “pray without ceasing,” “always to pray and not to faint.” God’s fatherly heart does not cease to pity; Christ does not cease to intercede for his people. As long as our Lord is on the throne of power, and we are in poverty and need and helplessness, we may well continue our prayers. Private, domestic, and public; silent and uttered; stated and ejaculatory;—the prayers of God’s people are acceptable, and are heard.
Application. 1. The tribulations of life are common to all mankind. Why should any hearer of the gospel endure those tribulations without the grace that can sustain and comfort, the hopes that can animate and inspire? 2. If Christians are weighed down and distressed by the trials of life, is it not because they fail to give heed to the admonitions of God’s Word, because they neglect to use the means of grace and help which are placed within their reach? Tribulation will come. We can be sustained under it only by patience and by hope; and these virtues are the fruits of prayer.
12. Rejoicing in hope, &c. Three things are here connected together, and seem in a manner to belong to the clause “serving the time;” for the person who accommodates himself best to the time, and avails himself of the opportunity of actively renewing his course, is he who derives his joy from the hope of future life, and patiently bears tribulations. However this may be, (for it matters not much whether you regard them as connected or separated,) he first forbids us to acquiesce in present blessings, and to ground our joy on earth and on earthly things, as though our happiness were based on them; and he bids us to raise our minds up to heaven, that we may possess solid and full joy. If our joy is derived from the hope of future life, then patience will grow up in adversities; for no kind of sorrow will be able to overwhelm this joy. Hence these two things are closely connected together, that is, joy derived from hope, and patience in adversities. No man will indeed calmly and quietly submit to bear the cross, but he who has learnt to seek his happiness beyond this world, so as to mitigate and allay the bitterness of the cross with the consolation of hope.
But as both these things are far above our strength, we must be instant in prayer, and continually call on God, that he may not suffer our hearts to faint and to be pressed down, or to be broken by adverse events. But Paul not only stimulates us to prayer, but expressly requires perseverance; for we have a continual warfare, and new conflicts daily arise, to sustain which, even the strongest are not equal, unless they frequently gather new vigour. That we may not then be wearied, the best remedy is diligence in prayer.
Ver. 12 Rejoicing in hope.—
- What is it to rejoice? 1. Negatively—(1) Not to have the senses pleased. (2) Nor does it consist in the imagination. 2. Positively; it consists in—(1) The removal of sorrow from the heart (Psa. 42:5). (2) The soul’s content and satisfaction (Luke 1:47).
- What is hope? It consists in—(1) The belief of good things to be had (1 Pet. 1:13). (2) The expectation of them (Psa. 42:5). (3) Making use of all lawful means for obtaining them (Heb. 10:23–25; Esther 4:14).
III. What is it to rejoice in hope? To rest satisfied with the expectation of the good things God has promised. 1. An interest in Christ (1 Pet. 1:8; Rom. 8:32, 34). 2. The pardon of sin (Psa. 32:5). 3. The love of God (chap. 5:1). 4. The working together of all things for our good (chap. 8:28). 5. Continual supplies of grace (2 Cor. 12:9). 6. A joyful resurrection (1 Cor. 15:19, 20). 7. The enjoyment of God for ever (Psa. 42:2).
- What grounds have we to hope for these things, so as to rejoice in it? 1. The faithfulness of God (Tit. 1:2). 2. His power (Matt. 19:26). 3. The merits of Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). Conlusion: Rejoice in hope. 1. Otherwise you dishonour God by mistrusting His promises (chap. 4:20). 2. You dishonour religion by accusing it of uncertainties. 3. You deprive yourself of happiness. 4. The more joyful in hope, the more active in duty. 5. Rejoice in hope now; in sight hereafter. (Bp. Beveridge.)
Rejoicing in hope:—
- The source of this joy—Hope. 1. Glorious. 2. Certain.
- Its nature. 1. Sweet. 2. Solid. 3. Spiritual. 4. Purifying.
III. Its expression. 1. Lively. 2. Practical. 3. Constant.
- Its importance to—1. Ourselves. 2. The Church. 3. The world. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Rejoicing in hope:—1. Hope is an instinct of the soul. “Thou didst make me to hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.” As an instinct—(1) It implies the existence of a prospective good, and the possibility of coming into its possession. (2) It is one of the strongest and most operative forces in our nature. Hesiod tells us, that the miseries of all mankind were included in a great box, and that Pandora’s husband took off the lid, by which means all of them came abroad, but hope remained still at the bottom, 2. The real worth of this instinct to man depends upon the direction it takes. (1) “Wrongly directed, it is a fawning traitor of the mind.” The goodly scenes it spreads out to the soul turn out to be a mere mirage. False hopes are like meteors that brighten the skies of the soul for a moment, only to leave the gloom more intense. They are mere blossoms on fruitless trees, pleasing the eye for the hour, then fading away and rotting into dust. Few things are more distressing than the loss of hope. Longfellow compares it to the “setting of the sun.” Solomon speaks of it as “the giving up of the ghost.” (2) Rightly directed, is among the chiefest of our blessings. It is that which gives sunshine to the sky, beauty to the landscape, and music to life. Such is the hope of which the apostle here speaks. Two things are essential to a “joyous hope.”
- A right object. 1. It must not—(1) Be selfish. So constituted is the soul, that the hope that is directed exclusively to its own happiness never satisfies. Down deep in the soul is the feeling that man has to live for something greater and nobler than himself. (2) Be incapable of engaging all our powers. (3) Less lasting than its own existence. Man can never be fully happy whose hope is directed to the transient and the dying. 2. That which will give a joyous hope is moral goodness—assimilation to the image of God.
- A certain foundation. Unless a man has good reason to believe that the object he hopes for is to be gained, he cannot rejoice in his hope. Three reasons for believing that a soul, guilty and depraved, can be brought into possession of true goodness, and restored to the very image of God, are—1. The provisions of the gospel. The life and death of Christ, the agency of the Spirit, and the disciplinary influences of human life are all divinely appointed methods to re-create the soul and to fashion it into the very image of God. 2. The biographies of sainted men. History abounds with examples of bad men becoming good. 3. The inward consciousness of moral progress. The man who has got this hope is conscious that he has made some progress, and that the steps he has taken have been the most difficult. His past efforts are aids and pledges to future success. (D. Thomas, D.D.) Patient in tribulation:—
- What are tribulations? Whatsoever—1. Is hurtful to us. 2. Vexeth us.
- What is it to be patient? 1. Not to murmur against God (Exod. 16:3). 2. Nor despair of deliverance (Psa. 42:5). 3. Nor use unlawful means to get out of them. 4. To rest satisfied with them (1 Sam. 3:18). 5. To be thankful for them (Job 1:21, 22; 1 Thess. 5:18).
III. Why are we to be patient? 1. They come from God (2 Sam. 16:10–12; Psa. 39:2). 2. Are no more (Lam. 3:39), but less than we deserve (Ezra 9:13). 3. Impatience does not heighten them. 4. By patience we change them into mercies as in Job, Joseph, David. Conclusion: Be patient. 1. No afflictions but others have borne (1 Pet. 4:12; 5:9). 2. Christ has undergone more than we can (chap. 8:29; 1 Pet. 2:23; 4:13). 3. God knows how to deliver us (2 Pet. 2:9). 4. By patience you make a virtue of necessity. 5. Will do you much good by them (Heb. 12:6–8). (Bp. Beveridge.)
Patient in tribulation:—
- Tribulation is unavoidable in this life. 1. Ordained of God. 2. For wise purposes.
- Should be borne with patience. 1. Not indifference. 2. But in silence. 3. Without repining. 4. With resignation.
III. The reasons. 1. God is kind. 2. Life is but a probationary state. 3. Consolations are provided. 4. The results are glorious. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Patient in tribulation:—Some have floated on the sea, and trouble carried them on its surface, as the sea carries cork. Some have sunk at once to the bottom, as foundering ships sink. Some have run away from their own thoughts. Some have coiled themselves up in stoical indifference. Some have braved the trouble, and defied it. Some have carried it, as a tree does a wound, until by new wood it can overgrow and cover the old gash. A few in every age have known the divine art of carrying sorrow and trouble as wonderful food, as an invisible garment that clothed them with strength, as a mysterious joy, so that they suffered gladly, rejoicing in infirmity, and, holding up their heads with sacred presages whenever times were dark and troublous, let the light depart from their eyes, that they might by faith see nobler things than sight could reach. (H. W. Beecher.)
Patient in tribulation:—All birds when they are first caught and put into the cage fly wildly up and down, and beat themselves against their little prisons; but within two or three days sit quietly on their perch, and sing their usual notes with their usual melody. So it fares with us, when God first brings us into a strait; we wildly flutter up and down, and beat and tire ourselves with striving to get free; but at length custom and experience will make our narrow confinement spacious enough for us; and though our feet should be in the stocks, yet shall we, with the apostles, be able even there to sing praises to our God. (Bp. Hopkins.) Continuing instant in prayer.—
- What is prayer? 1. The hearty desire. (1) Mental (1 Sam. 1:13; Eph. 5:10). (2) Oral (John 17:5). 2. Of necessary things. (1) Spiritual, for the life to come. (a) Sense of sin (Luke 13:3). (b) Faith in Christ (Luke 17:5). (c) Pardon of former transgressions (Psa. 51:9). (d) Subduing present corruptions (Psa. 19:12, 13; 119:133). (e) The continual influences of His grace and spirit (Psa. 51:10; Luke 11:13). (2) Temporal, for this life (1 Tim. 4:8; Prov. 30:8). 3. From God. (1) God alone is to be worshipped (Matt. 4:10). (2) God alone understands our prayers (Isa. 63:16). (3) He alone can answer them (Psa. 65:2). (4) He commands us to call to Him (Jer. 33:3; Psa. 50:15). (5) Christ directs us to pray to Him (Matt. 6:9). See the error of Papists, who pray to the Cross. To the Virgin Mary, &c. St. Roche for the plague. St. Apollonia for the toothache. St. Eulogius for horses. St. Anthony for hogs. St. Gallus for geese, &c.
- Why should we pray? 1. God hath commanded it (1 Thess. 5:17). 2. Encouraged us with a promise (Psa. 50:15; Matt. 7:7). 3. Made it the condition of all promises (Ezek. 36:37). 4. It is part of Divine worship. 5. Hereby we give glory to God. (1) Of omnipresence (Psa. 139:2, 3). (2) Of omniscience (Psa. 139:7). (3) Of omnipotence. 6. All blessings are sanctified by it (1 Tim. 4:5). 7. Only by this we acknowledge our dependence upon Him.
III. How should we pray. 1. Before prayer, consider (Psa. 10:17). (1) Who is it you go to pray to (Exod. 34:6). (2) What you have to pray for (1 John 5:14). (3) How unworthy you are to ask or receive (Gen. 32:10). (4) That Christ is interceding for you (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 7:25). 2. In prayer. (1) Pray with that humility, reverence, and submission, as becomes a sinful creature (Gen. 18:27; Luke 18:13; Ezra 9:6). (2) Utter nothing rashly before Him, nor mingle stories with petitions (Eccles. 5:1, 2). (3) Let every petition proceed from the heart (John 4:24). (4) Pray only in the name of Christ (John 14:13, 14; 16:23; Heb. 7:25). (5) Let your affections and apprehensions go together (1 Cor. 14:15). (6) Pray in faith (Mark 11:24; James 1:6). (7) Without wrath (1 Tim. 2:8; Matt. 6:14, 15). (8) For others as well as for yourselves (1 Tim. 2:1; Eph. 6:18). (9) To the right end (James 4:3). (10) Add praise to prayers (Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1). (a) Praising God is all that He expects for His mercies. (b) It is the best sacrifice we can offer (Psa. 69:30, 31). (c) It is the work of Heaven (Rev. 7:9, 10; 19:1). 3. After prayer. (1) Consider what you have prayed for. (2) Expect it (Psa. 5:3). (3) Use means for obtaining it.
- When should we pray? Or how continue instant in prayer (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17). 1. Be always in a praying frame. 2. Take all occasions of praying. 3. Never faint in prayer (Luke 18:1; 2 Cor. 12:8, 9). 4. Make prayer your daily exercise. (1) We must serve God daily (Luke 1:75). (2) The sacrifices of the Old Testament were daily (Numb. 28:3; Acts 3:1). (3) Christ directs us to ask our daily bread (Matt. 6:11, 33). (4) The saints in all ages prayed daily (Psa. 55:17; 119:164; Dan. 6:10; 1 Kings 8:48; Luke 2:37). (5) The heathen and the Turks do it. (6) We need daily mercies. (7) We receive them. 5. Objection. I have oft prayed, but am never heard (Job 21:15). (1) However, we are bound to serve God. (2) If we get no good it is our own fault. (a) As to the matter (1 John 5:14). (b) Means (James 1:6). (c) End, of prayer (James 4:3). (3) Perhaps you never expected it. (4) Or have not used the right means for it. (5) You have not prayed long enough (2 Cor. 12:9; Luke 18:1). (6) Though you have not received that required, you have other mercies (2 Cor. 12:9). (7) You may be answered, and not know it. Conclusion: Continue instant in prayer. 1. Otherwise ye live in continued sin. 2. Prayer is the most honourable work. 3. The most pleasant (Psa. 84:10). 4. The only way of getting real mercies (James 1:5). 5. Right praying is a sign of a true convert (Acts 9:11). (Bp. Beveridge.)
Instant in prayer:—Prayer is the natural duty of religion. Its observance is as natural as conversation between men. The Scriptures urge a constant and careful performance, then, not only as a duty, but a privilege. The subject suggests an inquiry as to—
- The matter and subject of prayer. 1. Generally, it is to petition God to bestow upon us all that is good, and to deliver us from all that is evil: the pursuit of virtue, the direction of our affairs, immortal happiness. 2. Particularly, our own individual requirements, according to our particular weaknesses and difficulties, should form the groundwork of our petitions.
- The specific directions of the apostle—“Continuing instant.” We are not to make it a mere formal duty. It is to be the constant effort and breath of our very existence. We are hereby taught—1. That worldly duties are not inconsistent with heavenly thoughts. 2. That God may be worshipped at all times. 3. That religion is not a thing to be put off till we have leisure and opportunity.
III. The contrast which this direction affords to all false systems. We are taught that God is worshipped by the mind and thoughts, and not by external observances. How different to heathen worship! Even the Jews’ religion was, to a great extent, formal. (J. Jortin, D.D.)
Instant in prayer:—When a pump is frequently used, but little pains are necessary to have water; the water pours out at the first stroke, because it is high. But if the pump has not been used for a long while, the water gets low, and when you want it you must pump a long while, and the water comes only after great efforts. It is so with prayer; if we are instant in prayer, every little circumstance awakens the disposition to pray, and desires and words are always ready. But if we neglect prayer it is difficult for us to pray; for the water in the well gets low. (Felix Neff.) Instant in prayer doesn’t exactly mean that we should be praying every instant, though we can be doing that also, but not if we are to think a prayer, or speak a prayer, for how could we then be getting on with other things that need all our attention at the time? But there are prayers that are not spoken or even thought of. You have seen the mariner’s compass. When the ship is tossing about, the compass trembles and swings to and fro, but it always comes back and points straight to the north. That’s where it wants to go to; every time it points to the north it seems to pray, “Let me go there!” Now why is this needle so constant about this wish to go northward? Because it has got in it a spirit that belongs to the distant Pole, and so, even while it is busy in telling the sailors how to steer, it is itself always turning to the north, because its life lies that way. So we may be very busy about other things, and need to fix all our attention upon them; but if our heart is right with Jesus, we shall be always wanting to do things for His sake, and do them right; and that big wish that is always in the heart is a continual prayer. (J. R. Howat.)
Instancy in prayer:—
- The import of the injunction. This is indicated by the employment of the word in other Scriptures (e.g., Acts 1:14; 2:42; Rom. 13:6; Acts 8:13; 10:7; Eph. 6:18). These show the meaning of the word; steadfastness or perseverance as a habit. In this sense the passage has many parallels (Eph. 6:18; Philip. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:17). In the widest sense, therefore, the injunction lays upon us—1. The habitual maintenance of a prayerful spirit. 2. The embracing of opportunities for prayer. 3. The improvement of occasions of prayer. You will find these everywhere, in the commonest experiences of every day. 4. Watchfulness.
- Considerations by which the injunction may be commended and enforced. 1. What a mighty power of restraint would such an “instancy of prayer” exercise! 2. What a spiritual elevation! 3. What peace amid conflicting cares! 4. What strength! (J. M. Jarvie.)
Prayer, daily:—As those who keep clocks wind them up daily, lest the weights should run down, and the clock stop; so we must set apart some portion of every day for meditation and prayer, lest our hearts should so far descend, through the weight of the cares of this world, that our course in godliness should be hindered and stopped. (Cawdray.)
Prayer hindered, not defeated:—For so I have seen a lark rising from his bed of grass and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds; but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest than it could recover by the liberation and frequent weighing of his wings, till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over; and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing, as if it had learned music and motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the air about his ministries here below. So is the prayer of a good man. (Jeremy Taylor.)
Prayer, nightly:—It is said of that good old man, John Quincy Adams, that he never went to his rest at night until he had repeated the simple prayer learned in childhood—the familiar “Now, I lay me down to sleep.”
- What is here required? 1. Continuance in personal and secret prayer primarily. In these times Christ’s saying is reversed. Men seem to say, If you pray openly, the Father will reward you in secret. And if a man have a taste for prayer meetings and none for private prayer, he should give up the prayer meetings until he recover the taste for secret prayer. 2. Paul speaks of continuance in the sense of importunity and perseverance. “Instant,” means earnest, pressing, and urgent. The precept implies the danger of non-continuance—of a lack of earnestness and urgency. Now this danger arises from—(1) Scepticism about prayer. Men are often tempted to ask, “What profit shall we have if we pray to Him?” Then we may be beset by unbelief as to God’s hearing our prayers in particular. (2) Indifference. Men do not care to pray. There is no very pressing want; no very urgent danger. The man is looking simply on the surface of his life.
- Why is this requirement made? Habitual prayer—1. Keeps in habitual exercise the first principles of our religious life, &c. You cannot pray without bringing into exercise faith, trust, hope, and love. Now these principles are not intended to be within us like gems in a casket, but are like muscles. Work them, and they will be strengthened; give them nothing to do, and they will shrink, and when you want them, they will not be in a state to serve you. 2. Keeps a man face to face with God. This is the right position. We never see any matter as we ought to see it, except we look God in the face about it. 3. Recognises the two great blessings of the Christian economy. And what are these? (1) The mediation of Christ. (2) The ministration of the Holy Ghost. 4. Is the constant use of the highest agency which Christians can employ. What has prayer done? Conquered the elements, healed the diseased, restored life, &c. Prayer moves the hand which moves the world. 5. Is second only to ceaseless praise in the loftiness and in the sacredness of the habit. 6. Is in harmony with God’s present method of government. The basis of that government is atonement, i.e., an embodied supplication for mercy. (S. Martin.)
Prayer unceasing:—Fletcher’s whole life was a life of prayer; and so intensely was his mind fixed upon God that he sometimes said, “I would not move from my seat without lifting up my heart to God.” “Wherever we met,” says Mr. Vaughan, “if we were alone, his first salute was, ‘Do I meet you praying?’ And if we were talking on any point of divinity, when we were in the depth of our discourse he would often break off abruptly and ask, ‘Where are our hearts now?’ If ever the misconduct of an absent person was mentioned, his usual reply was, ‘Let us pray for him.’ ”
Constant, instant, expectant:—
- Instant. The Greek word means “always applying strength in prayer”; “blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee.” Brooks saith that the word is a metaphor taken from hunting dogs, which will never give up the game till they have got it. Prevalent prayer is frequently spoken of in Scripture as an agony—“striving together with me in your prayers,” and as “wrestling.” We must go with our whole soul to God or He will not accept us. We are to pray as if all depended upon our praying. How are we to attain to this urgency? 1. Let us study the value of the mercy which we are seeking at God’s hand. Whatever it is that thou art asking for, it is no trifle. If it be a doubtful thing, lay it aside: but if thou art certain that the blessing sought is good and necessary, examine it as a goldsmith inspects a jewel when he wishes to estimate its worth. 2. Meditate on thy necessities. See thy soul’s poverty and undeservingness. Look at what will happen to thee unless this blessing come. 3. Endeavour to get a distinct consciousness of the fact that God must give thee this blessing, or thou wilt never have it. 4. Eagerly desire the good thing. Stand not before God as one who will be content whether or no. There are times when you must say, “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.” 5. Now comes the tug of war; you are to plead with all your might. Gather up all your faculties to see whether this thing be a matter of promise or no. When you have found the promise, plead it by saying, “Lord, do as Thou hast said.” If you do not seem to prevail with one promise seek out another and another, and then plead, “For Thy name’s sake, for Thy truth’s sake, for Thy covenant’s sake”; and then come in with the greatest plea of all, “For Jesus’ sake.” 6. Still there is one thing more wanted, and that is strong faith. You cannot be instant in prayer, nay, you cannot offer an acceptable prayer at all except as you believe in the prayer-hearing God.
- Constant—“continuing.” Go back to the hunting dog. We saw him rushing like the wind after his game, but this will not be enough if it only lasts for a little; he must continue running if he is to catch his prey. It is a sign of failure in the iron trade when the furnaces are blown out; when business flourishes the fire blazes both day and night; and so will it be with prayer when the soul is in a flourishing state. If prayer be the Christian’s vital breath, how can he leave off praying? “That is difficult,” says one. Who said it was not? All the processes of the Christian life are difficult; but “the Spirit helpeth our infirmities.” Prayer must be continuous, because—1. It is so singularly mixed up with the whole gospel dispensation. 2. It is connected with every covenant blessing. 3. It has been connected with every living spiritual experience you have ever had. 4. There is no time when we can afford to slacken prayer. 5. Such remarkable gifts are vouchsafed to importunity. 6. The continuance of our instancy in prayer is the test of the reality of our devotion. Earnest men of business cannot afford to open the shop and do a little occasional trade, and then put up a notice, “The proprietor of this shop has gone out for an excursion, and will resume his business when he feels inclined to.” Beware of spasms of prayer.
III. Expectant. It is not in the text verbally, but it must be there really, because there will be no such thing as instancy or constancy unless there is an expectation that God can and will give that which we seek. Go back to our dog again: he would not run at so great a rate if he did not expect to seize his prey. If some people looked out for answers to prayer they might soon have them, for their prayers would be answered by themselves. I was reminded of that by a little boy whose father prayed in the family that the Lord would visit the poor and relieve their wants. When he had finished, his little boy said, “Father, I wish I had your money.” “Why so?” “Because,” he said, “I would answer your prayers for you.” I like better still that story of the good man at the prayer-meeting, who reading the list of prayers found one for a poor widow that her distress might be relieved, so he began to read it, but stopped and added, “We won’t trouble the Lord with that, I will attend to that myself.” The Lord might well say to us, “Thou sayest, Thy kingdom come; arise and help to make My kingdom come!” I shall close by recommending to all of you one simple but very comprehensive prayer. It was offered by a poor man in Fife, and it was copied out by the Duchess of Gordon, and found among her papers when she died. “O Lord, give me grace to feel my need of Thy grace! Give me grace to ask for Thy grace! Give me grace to receive Thy grace! And when in Thy grace Thou hast given me grace, give me grace to use Thy grace!” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
12:12 “rejoicing in hope” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE used in the sense of an IMPERATIVE. The term “hope” was often used in connection with the Second Coming (cf. 5:2). It is not hope in the English sense of a wish, but in the NT sense of a certain event, but with an ambiguous time element. See notes at 4:18 and 5:2.
© “persevering” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE used in the sense of an IMPERATIVE. The term means “active, voluntary, steadfast endurance.”
© “in tribulation” As in 5:3, 5 “hope” was linked to tribulation (thlipsis). This is the norm for followers of Christ in a fallen world (cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17ff; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12ff). We must not seek it nor shun it! See Special Topic: Tribulation at 5:3.
© “devoted to prayer” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE used in the sense of an IMPERATIVE. Prayer is a spiritual discipline and gift that recognizes God’s active hand in history. Believers can affect a loving Heavenly Father. God has chosen to limit Himself to the prayers of His children (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4; Eph. 6:18–19; Col. 4:2). This makes prayer an awesome responsibility. See Three Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare by Clinton Arnold, pp. 43–44, 187–188.
12. Be joyful in hope, enduring in affliction, persistent in prayer.
The hope of future salvation (cf. 5:2, 4, 5; 8:24, 25; 15:4, 13) stimulates present joy; in fact, to such an extent that God’s children are even able patiently to endure in the midst of affliction. This endurance indicates strength to bear up under stress, plus the persistent application of this strength. It is not the product of human wisdom or skill but of God’s grace. Therefore Paul immediately adds “(Be) persistent in prayer.”
Without constant prayer such joy and endurance would be impossible. The opposition coming from the side of the world and the doubts from within would prove too strong. In fact, without steadfastness in prayer obedience to none of the exhortations of chapter 12 or of other passages can be expected.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 191–193). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 190). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 779). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 131–133). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). The Pulpit Commentary: Romans (pp. 360–362). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 466–467). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 521–526). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.
 Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 12:12). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 415–416). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.