Paul makes it clear that he has a problem with his speech. This difficulty may have been his lack of natural ability in speaking. After all, he had been despised by members of the church in Corinth because they regarded his speech as contemptible (2 Cor. 10:10).
Yet it is clear that Paul’s circumstances were liable to have an effect on him. He was experiencing imprisonment, with the prospect of having to appear before Caesar at a trial. The temptation must have been there to tone down his testimony and thereby escape punishment. Such a temptation comes to many Christians in times of difficulty. Paul stresses that his concern is not so much that he would speak fluently as that he would speak boldly, which suggests that his problem was a lack of boldness.
This is a reminder that Paul, although he was called to serve Christ in a particular way and in a public manner, was like us. When he first went to Corinth, the Lord assured him: ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people’ (Acts 19:9-10). Paul later reveals his feelings when in Corinth: ‘I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling’ (1 Cor. 2:3). When he was sent to Rome for trial, which led to his current imprisonment, God sent an angel to Paul to tell him, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you’ (Acts 27:24). Paul was often afraid, but he knew what to do when he felt fear.
Paul’s response was to call on prayer support. A Christian worker cannot function in spiritual isolation, although it is possible for him to function in physical isolation. Paul, feeling the pressure, called in the troops and implored that they would intercede for them.
We could ask, Was Paul able to pray for himself, and would his prayers not be sufficient? The answer is that he had to engage in intense personal prayer as if he were the only one interceding. Yet the Lord, in his merciful way, ensures that we remain humble as we proceed along the path of grace. If Paul achieved deliverance and victory through his own prayers, he could have had a sense of achievement. So Jesus encourages his servants to appreciate the prayers of others by giving greater answers to corporate prayer.