A Barrier Busting Prayer
Bible Reading: Acts 10
We were living in Columbia City, Oregon in the spring of 1990. I was finishing up my Bible training at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary. Having sensed a call to pastoral ministry, Laura and I were praying and waiting on the Lord to show where He would send us. In that same time frame, unbeknownst to us, two men in Astoria, Jim Thompson and Vic Albertson, were praying for a pastor for their church. Their church had met with troubles, they’d thought of closing the doors, but decided instead to pray God would somehow provide a pastor. God worked through their prayers and ours to bring us together. Astonishingly God called me to serve as pastor of the same church where the very first member of my extended family was saved! Until he departed to be with Jesus, Jim Thompson (an elder in our church and dear friend and a man who was devoted to prayer), would frequently thank God in his prayers for having answered his prayer in sending us. And, of course, we ended up serving there for twenty-seven and ½ years. Isn’t it amazing how God is well pleased to work through the prayers of men to accomplish His plan! We have a fitting example of that in this Acts, chapter eight.
Approximately seven years had passed since Jesus’ commission to the Apostles to be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It took a “great persecution” to scatter believers to the “regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Even then there was no real attempt to take the message to the Gentiles. The gospel outreach to the remotest part of the earth was apparently of remote concern (except for Philip’s outreach efforts; Acts 8:40).
The problem was, there were longstanding religious traditions and prejudices which stood in the way. It was unlawful for a Jew “to associate with or visit anyone of another nation” (Acts 10:28) or to eat with them (Acts 11:3). In NT times the Jews had little regard for the Gentiles. So strong was their animosity that a common Jewish prayer went something like this, “God thank you that I was not born a woman or a Gentile.” There were Jewish laws which prohibited contact with Gentiles. If a Gentile was invited into a Jewish home, he was not to be left unattended, lest every article of food and drink be henceforth regarded as unclean. The animosity by the Jews towards the Gentiles (and vice versa) was pervasive. It impacted every aspect of life. It was possible for a Gentile to be proselytized to Judaism, but it rarely happened. Gentile converts were rarely treated fairly and were commonly looked on with suspicion.
God would have to intervene if the gospel were to be taken to the Gentiles. And that’s exactly what He did in bringing Cornelius and Peter together. Cornelius was “a devout man who feared God, with all his household, gave alms generously to the people and prayed continuously to God” (Acts 10:2). God, having heard his prayers, gave him instructions to send for Peter (Acts 10:4). Peter was about thirty-five miles away in Joppa. The next day, as Cornelius’ men were on their way, Peter went up on the housetop to pray. Through repeated visions God revealed His will to Peter regarding what would soon happen. While Peter was perplexed by the meaning of it all, the men sent by Cornelius arrived and spoke to Peter. He went away with them to Caesarea. Peter and Cornelius then met and explained to each other how God had worked to bring them together.
Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-43). “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44). The seed of the gospel message fell on the fruitful soil of well-prepared hearts! What a wonderful day! The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were “amazed” (Acts 10:45). In an instant God tore down centuries-old and firmly established barriers. God worked in an amazing way through the prayers of those two men, to break down an insurmountable barrier that had been centuries in the making. Friends, we’ve no idea how God will work through our prayers to accomplish a certain thing, but we know that He can. And so, we remain devoted to prayer. Just like Cornelius.
“Thou Art Coming to a King, Large Petitions with Thee Bring” – John Newton
COME, MY SOUL, THY SUIT PREPARE (John Newton)
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,
Jesus loves to answer pray’r.
He Himself has bid thee pray,
rise and ask without delay.
Thou art coming to a King,
large petitions with thee bring,
for his grace and pow’r are such,
none can ever ask too much.
With my burden I begin,
Lord, remove this load of sin!
Let Thy blood, for sinners spilt,
set my conscience free from guilt.
Lord! I come to Thee for rest,
take possession of my breast;
there Thy blood-bought right maintain,
and without a rival reign.
While I am a pilgrim here,
let Thy love my spirit cheer;
as my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
lead me to my journey’s end.
Show me what I have to do;
ev’ry hour my strength renew;
let me live a life of faith;
let me die Thy people’s death.