Saturday, February 7, 2004

God Answers Prayer... Right?

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!"

Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked.

The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea." (Acts 10:1-6 NIV)

Most of us are familiar with the rest of this passage: Peter's vision of the sheet full of "unclean" animals, the conversion of Cornelius and his entire household, and the realization of the Jerusalem Church that the Gospel of Jesus was meant for all nations.

But what about the fact that God was listening to the prayers of someone who knew nothing (as far as we know) about Jesus? I remember being taught during high school that "God doesn't hear the prayers of the heathen (nice term for our non-Christian friends, eh?), until after they pray the 'Sinner's Prayer'." 

I didn't buy that back then, and I don't buy it now. Cornelius is but one biblical example of God hearing, and answering, the sincere prayers of someone who didn't technically "know Jesus" -- at least not yet.

And how many times have we heard testimonies of people saying that their first prayer was "God, if You're real, You've got to show me"? And then God answered their prayer, and they later became followers of Jesus.

Recently, my son bought me the concert DVD Bruce Springsteen: Live In Barcelona. It was recorded last year during "The Rising" tour, and there are numerous overtly "spiritual" moments throughout the concert. During the song "My City Of Ruins" (which is an awesome song of intercession), as Bruce sang the lines:
"With these hands, I pray for Your strength, Lord
With these hands, I pray for Your love, Lord
With these hands, I pray for the faith, Lord
C'mon rise up! Rise up!"
...over 20,000 people raised their hands to the sky and sang these words at the top of their lungs. Imagine: Bruce Springsteen led literally thousands of people in prayer during this tour! Church cynics would disparage this with comments like "yes, but who were they praying to?" To me, this kind of comment represents the height (or depth) of evangelical arrogance. The same God who was so quick to respond to Cornelius' prayer in Acts 10 is the same God who heard the prayers in Barcelona, and the other 82 cities that "The Rising" tour came in contact with.

Think of it: thousands upon thousands of people, all over the world, calling out to God in prayer. I wonder how God will answer? I wonder how many of us Christians will get out from behind the safety of the four walls of the church, and actually witness how God is already moving among the nations?

No comments:

Post a Comment