Today’s Reading: Acts 10
I’m excited about today’s chapter. Acts 10 is one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. It gives the thirty-thousand-foot view of why we pray. And it does this by telling a story of two separate guys, an Italian and a Jew, and how their worlds intersected through prayer.
It reminds me of something I’ve often heard said: “The more I pray, the more coincidences happen.” Coincidence is just another name for the providence of God and the activity of God in our daily lives, connecting and intersecting situations that had no way of being connected.
Peter and Cornelius were about to have that intersection. They are more than thirty miles apart, and God was set to bring their two worlds together. There is also a wider gap between their ethnicity, Gentile and Jew, and God brought that together also.
Let’s read first about the Italian:
There was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” (Acts 10:1-6)
If Cornelius didn’t pray, then how would he know about Simon, also called Peter, in a city called Joppa, staying with another Simon, who has a leather business near the sea? Oh my goodness, what incredible instructions from prayer.
This is why I pray. There are things you will never know if you don’t pray. I’ve heard it said, “When I work, I work. But when I pray, God works.”
God was working in Acts 10.
Listen closely: those who don’t pray are boring. You miss the exciting extras God adds to your life. Prayerlessness is a boring existence for a Christian.
George Mueller, the nineteenth-century pastor who housed and cared for orphans in Bristol, England, believed that four hours’ worth of work and one hour of prayer could accomplish much more than five hours of work. Prayer is the work, which opens up and intersects worlds that never would have come together. Just as it did here in Acts 10.
When I pray, three things happen:
• I go places I never would have gone.
• I meet people I never would have met.
• And I go through doors I never would have gotten through.
Prayer brought together an Italian and a Jew who had nothing in common in their own minds, but there was a bigger purpose in God’s mind.
Prayer widens the boundaries beyond your zip code, geography, and relationships.
Now here’s the intersection: while Cornelius prayed and sent his men to get Peter . . . “on the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray” (verse 9).
While Peter was praying, men were coming to see him. Peter received a vision, and the voice of God as a knock on the door from these men happened: “While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them myself’” (verses 19-20).
Those were Cornelius’s guys.
Two men’s prayer lives brought an intersection that would never have happened. And God brought the Italian and the Jew together. That’s what prayer does, and that’s why we pray.
Peter went with the men to Cornelius’s house and preached to them. And “while Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (verse 44).
This is off the charts! It was the Gentiles’ Pentecost, in which men and women were filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized in water. And a few verses later (verse 47), Peter said that this was just like what happened to them in Acts 2.
All of this happened because two men prayed.
This is why we pray.
Who knows who we will meet today?
Who knows what door we will see opened?
Who knows where God will send us?
Louis Lallemant, a seventeenth-century monk couldn’t have said better the importance of why we pray: “A man of prayer will do more in one year than another will do in his whole life.”