“God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times….” (Romans 1:9)
The clue lies in that little word serve. Prayer and preaching are acts of service for Paul, but he uses a somewhat unusual term (latreuo) in Romans 1:9. This is not merely the service that a waiter or a slave might render. It’s a word dedicated to the realm of religious service, priestly service.
Paul frames his life in terms of priestly duty (see also Romans 12:1). This is what priests do. They proclaim and they pray. They speak to people for God, and they speak to God for people. One without the other leaves us half-done. We have half-ministries.
Paul links the two together in this simple verse; a verse we might often gloss over.
Lent provides an annual impetus for us to listen more carefully to Christ. Our fasting specifically creates space for God to speak and for us to be attentive. We may have come to the season with special needs or concerns on our hearts. Perhaps we have questions and we’re looking for answers. We pray for ourselves.
But priests also look beyond themselves. Their role is to intercede for others.
Who will you pray for today?
Pray for those who are close to you, for those who are suffering, for those who are anxious, for those without faith or hope, and — yes — for those who treat you harshly and unfairly.
All of us who name Christ as Lord serve as both bond-servants and priests. And we ought not under-estimate the powerful ministry of intercession that priests have provided throughout human history. Their prayers have touched the heart of God, moved the hand of God, and shaped the world more than we may ever know. The prayers of God’s priests (each of us) have moved like the currents beneath the ocean.
You are such a priest. Let’s serve today “with our whole hearts.” Let’s pray.