There are some things that we, from a cultural point of view or even from a frightened-of-what-others-might-think point of view, regard as inappropriate and among them is a person saying anything about his or her own prayers. It would certainly cause a few heads to be turned if one of us was to start speaking about his or her own prayers. So why does Paul here go into detail about why and how he prayed for the Roman believers? Here are some reasons.
First, Paul was conscious that he was an example to other Christians. What benefit could he be to the Christians in Rome if he was not a praying person? Yet how would they know that he was that kind of man? Only by him revealing that he was. When they had read his letter they would know that he had prayed for them often, long before he came to be with them. And in his dedicated prayer life for those he intended to help one day he is an example for us. Do we pray for those we have not yet met? Do we pray that we will be a blessing to them and that God would be preparing us, and them, for when we do meet?
Second, Paul was aware of the accusation of hypocrisy. His opponents, within and without the Christian church, could easily make up and suggest wrong reasons for Paul wanting to go to Rome. What is an effective way of rebutting that ridiculous tendency in some people of applying wrong motives? Pray accurately and lovingly about what is on your heart.
Third, Paul realised that Christians should have reasons why they do or say things. We are not meant to engage in things from a mindless point-of-view. This goes for everything that they do and Paul, here in Romans and elsewhere in his letters, gives reasons as to why he prayed particular requests.
Fourth, Paul is not the only biblical author to go into detail regarding personal prayer. The obvious example of another set of persons is the psalmists – most of their songs can be classified as prayer, which is a reminder that prayer is not limited to one kind of speech. In addition, the prophets in the Old Testament often record their prayers. Jeremiah has recorded some moving, heartfelt and frank prayers that he made during difficult periods in his ministry.
Fifth, the Holy Spirit has included these words of Paul as part of Holy Scripture, which means that the Divine Author of the New Testament books desires that his people will take note of what is recorded and deduce appropriate lessons from them. The fact is, a true consideration of Paul’s prayer life will improve our own prayer lives.