A Three-Point Sermon (in Nine Words)

In Romans 12:12, the Apostle Paul writes: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” There is a wonderful three-point sermon in those nine words.[1] Point one: there is a great future ahead of us, so be joyful in hope. Point two: there are great difficulties surrounding us, so be patient in affliction. And point three: there is a great God above us, so be faithful in prayer.

Though each point in this nine-word sermon is important, I want to focus on the final one: “faithful in prayer.” This is one way that our commitment to each other works itself out: we pray for each other. We pray for each other when we are alone. We pray for each other when we are together. And we are hopeful in our prayers, even in the worst of times.

We pray with hope because we know who is listening. This kind of hope does not come in the absence of affliction but in the midst of it. The affliction is real and painful, but it is not permanent. We know that and so we are hopeful.

The Greek word translated as “affliction” has the idea of something that puts pressure on us, that squeezes us. Money troubles, relationship troubles, health troubles all squeeze us. They leave us feeling like the walls are closing in and there’s no way out.

When our people (that is, the people of Jesus, especially those in our own church family) are going through tough times, our commitment to them expresses itself in prayer. We pray earnestly and repeatedly. And if ideas come to us as we pray, we act on them in hope. When our friend’s hope is lagging, we hope for them.

The phrase “faithful in prayer” means something like, “always on call for…” We are on call 24-7 to pray for each other. One of the most loving – and love-engendering – things we can do is to pour out our heart in prayer for another person.


[1] Ten words in the NIV but nine words in Greek.

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