We are studying the Book of Acts in our church. One thing is sure up to this point: the people of God in Acts are a praying people! The Bible says that Saul of Tarsus (while still a persecutor) had authority from the chief priests to arrest all who called upon the Lord’s name (Acts 9:14). That’s an interesting description of the Jesus followers. Before they were called Christians, they were known as the folks who “called on the name of Jesus.” That’s prayer, people.
I am amazed at all the things that happen when/as God’s people pray. After Saul’s blinding conversion experience (Acts 9) he set himself to pray. As he did, God sent a vision to Ananias (who was no doubt praying too!). Later, as Cornelius was praying (Acts 10)an angel appeared to him and instructed him to send to Joppa for Peter. As the men approached the gate where Peter was staying and while Peter was on the roof praying, God sent a vision to Peter! Later, when Peter was put in prison by Herod (Acts 12), the people of God began to pray fervently for him and God sent an angel to liberate him from the jail!
A good friend of ours, Lucille, told me the other day that Christian people in our day need to be taught to say “grace” at their meals. Lucille is of the opinion that we ought to thank God for our blessings even if we are dining out at a restaurant. She told of how one time after she and her husband prayed over their meal at a café that she overhead a child at a nearby table say, “Mommy why don’t we say a prayer before we eat too?” Their example of prayer was influencing people even when they didn’t know it! (That’s why I used the Rockwell piece, Saying Grace, for this article! Btw, I love this painting so much that I bought two copies of the print years ago.)
As Lucille was sharing her story I remember something amazing that happened about 7-8 years back. I was in a far away, non-Christian country on the Lord’s business. We were having lunch in a restaurant and paused to give thanks to God. I didn’t expect there were any other Christians in that place. Later, as we were finishing our meal a young man and his wife approached us. He said, “I think you are men of God. We saw you praying. Are you Christians?” We then engaged in a lovely time of fellowship with this Christian couple who were definitely in the minority in their city and country. They invited us for a tour of the countryside the next afternoon – which we gladly accepted. As we sat in their home the next afternoon having tea, they told us how after seven years of married life they had not been able to become pregnant. They asked if we would pray and ask for God to give them a child. We prayed for them but encouraged them to trust the Lord whether or not He gave them a child. I didn’t pray with a great expectation that God would give them a child. I knew that He might do a miracle, however. I had seen it happen before in a similar case.
Imagine my joy when just over ten months later I got an international phone call informing me that they had a new baby boy! They named him after me!
I share this NOT to highlight the answer to prayer – though it was certainly miraculous! I share this to illustrate how simply stopping to thank God at a meal OPENED THE DOOR to a ministry opportunity in a far away land! Do you see it? Just the act of praying is a manifestation of faith and a demonstration of the grace of God! Peter was not praying about a mission to the Gentiles when he was on the rooftop in Joppa! But that’s what opened up!
Never doubt that your prayers are important. You don’t have to see immediate answers to have this confidence. Trust God even when you don’t know what He’s up to! And keep praying!