We Are Never Helpless in Helping


Regularly, I encounter suffering in other believers’ lives that I cannot remedy or change. Further, I am unable to comprehend the full impact and the unique features of others’ pressures and sorrows. Yet, I often desire to be that impossibly close. Knowing what I cannot do could lead to discouragement. But the apostle Paul writes of a better way.

“Join Me”

Paul tells—no, urges—the church in Rome to join him in his struggle (Romans 15:30). He doesn’t instruct his fellow Christians to solely accept and acknowledge their real limitations in helping him. He also doesn’t say that because they are not the agents of solution or omniscient listeners, they aren’t much help after all. He tells them to enter into his concerns.

After teaching upon teaching of gospel theology in his letter to the Romans, Paul then writes to the church in Rome about his needs. He desires to be free in Judea to continue his mission and well-received in ministry in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 24:17), all so that he may be refreshed through a trip to the church at Rome(Romans 15:31-32). And Paul gives the church at Rome these prayer requests fundamentally on the basis of their being fellow believers who share with him in the love of God through Christ, as his letter describes. While he is hoping to visit them, he has been prevented from doing so (Romans 1:13). But he entreatsthat they share his concerns; he wants their help.

As one immediate and personal application of the theology he had been teaching—a theology that joins believers together in the Lord—he asks them to pray.

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”
Romans 15:30 NIV

Commonality Affects Prayer

If any of the recipients of his letter have merely casual concerns for him thus far, he urges them forward. If they have little to no concerns, he asks them to consider their same Lord and the same love of the Holy Spirit among them—the God who makes their priorities and sense of mission shared. And if they already do have significant concern, then he directs that drive of compassion toward one end—the means by which he believes that he will substantially receive their aid. 

When a believer is suffering and we want to help more than we possibly can help, we can pray.

Perhaps you have done all that you are able to do in the life of a suffering friend—been present to listen, continued toremembered him or her over time, sought to offer specific service of some kind, or insightful and compassionate words of biblical help that God has enabled you to provide—and you still feel as though you wish you could do more. Don’t belittle the help you have already given. And then, don’t doubt the purpose of the compassion that is remaining in your heart; don’t allow it to make you feel helpless. It’s there for a purpose. 

As we pray for God’s glory in the lives of our believing friends and family members, we remember what He can do:

  1. God can see into our inner beings to know our exact needs,preparing corresponding provisions of Himself to help the believer stay near to Him in sorrow. The Holy Spirit is able to guide the suffering Christian into the truth of the Word, the truth that affords lasting comfort and provides foundation for perseverance.

  2. God could change circumstances altogether, glorifying Himself through a demonstration of His power. And He can also arrange the sufferer’s days to allow for upliftingcircumstantial help amidst pain.

  3. God can provide opportunities through suffering by the Spirit to display Christ-like character and proclaim the gospel that alone gives hope, as God’s glory radiates through the believer’s life. God can enable the Christian to maintain, and often increase, his or her witness to Christ while in the saddest of days.

  4. God can move the Christian’s inner spirit to pray with a hopeful, expectant, and believing heart that He would come back for His own soon. And the Christian’s spirit can also gain greater compassion for those who yet do not have the hope of the gospel, thanking God for His patience with this world.

God can press His good purposes into human sorrow with such power that the believer can have immense joy through the privilege of glorifying His Name and depending upon Him at all times. Paul is, of course, right. We have commonality through our shared love of God that enables us to instantaneously understand the manner in which we can pray for one another.

Additionally, Paul does not only ask for prayer as a fellow believer, but also as one who is engaged in a life devoted to the ministry of the Word and to the spread of the gospel to those who had not yet heard it. As we think of those who are suffering, we can pray too for believers experiencing various pressures as a result of their devotion to ministry and missions—joining as supporters of their labors. 

Never Helpless in Helping

Because we have prayer, we are never helpless in helping. We can call upon the Lord who knows us and all of our circumstances with knowledge that is comprehensive, familiar, and precise. Pressing into our desires to help others in impossible-to-us ways is useful, hope-filled. For, in those desires, we remember to pray into others’ lives the comforts of our shared, infinite God. 

This post was originally published at The Ploughman’s Rest.