A Place of Prayer
Bible Reading: Acts 16:12-15
Acts 16:12-14, “…and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
I recall on one occasion how Pastor Bob Emrich and I were especially blessed by the testimony of a pastor who approached us after one of our Bible conferences in Uganda. He profusely thanked us for the Bible teaching, and then described how he and his friends had prayed for a long time for God to send them some help, for they severely lacked Bible training. He then explained how they had long prayed that way until the day came when God answered by sending us across the ocean and over the hills to come to them. He was so very thankful to God for having sent us!
We read of a similar occurrence in our passage. Some ladies were gathered at a place of prayer by the riverside. They did not know Jesus, as the gospel hadn’t even come yet to their region. But we are told that one of their number was a “worshiper of God.” They were praying, yet unaware that God had already been at work in answering their prayers by sending the Apostle Paul their way. One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20, which says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” Say a prayer. Think a thought. God is able to do more, even far more, even far more abundantly than we ask. And such was their situation. No matter how lofty their prayers, they could not have expected an answer which would unveil to them the very “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)! Nor could they have imagined how the seed of their prayers would be used by God to birth a church in Philippi. Paul shared the gospel. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart and she responded! And in that way, God worked to birth a church in Philippi.
Jesus said, “I will build My church.” And here we read about one part of that work that He has been doing since the beginning. These Spirit-led and empowered men were providentially led by God to go to this place and bear witness of Christ in preaching the gospel. The church is Philippi came into being by God’s doing, and was no doubt henceforth instructed and reminded one another of that, recalling with praise and thanksgiving to God for what He had done: “Remember how God led the Apostle Paul to come to us; Remember how he found Lydia at the place of prayer; Remember how she and the others responded to the gospel?”
And note what happened in Lydia’s case. Luke is the inspired author. Note how he wrote about what happened. Why and how did Lydia respond to the gospel? She responded because the Lord opened her heart. No mention is made of Paul’s charisma or outstanding personality or persuasion. The attention is not drawn to any theatrics of Paul or any of his team—here’s the explanation given for Lydia’s response — “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was being said by Paul.” And in that way, she was saved and a church was born in Philippi. And it is no different today than it was back then so many years ago. All the glory goes to God in the birth of a church or the salvation of a soul!
OPEN MY EYES, THAT I MAY SEE
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free
Silently now I wait for thee
Ready, my God, thy will to see
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!