There's a story in Acts 10 about a soldier--a centurion--named Cornelius. He's a pretty amazing guy. Acts 10:2 describes him as "a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and who prayed to God always." But he didn't know Jesus. The narrative continues:

About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius!" And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, "What is it, lord?" So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa and send for Simon whose surname is Peter . . . " (Acts 10:3-5).

"Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God." Hmmm . . . . We know from the narrative of Sodom and Gomorrah that God hears the cries of innocent victims (Genesis 18:20-21), and we know from the story of the Exodus that God hears the cries and sees the sufferings of His people (Ex. 2:23-25; 3:7)--but can it be that God also hears the prayers of those who do not yet know Him but want to? I think so, yes. And to them He sends a Peter.

I also think something else happens with Cornelius. His alms come up for a memorial before God. Perhaps the gifts themselves receive notice, but I like to assume something else. What must have happened when he distributed gifts to the poor? How many of them must have said, "Thank You, God, for this gift, for Cornelius?" We know that the incense offered in the Tabernacle is a picture of the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4), and that it came up before God as a pleasing aroma. I just wonder how many prayers for Cornelius came up before God.

Why do I bring this up? I think this is one purpose in praying for the lost--to bring them up as a memorial before God.  I have many friends who do not know God, but they are kind people who do good things for others. Perhaps they pray; I can't always tell. Sometimes I get opportunities to talk with them about Jesus; sometimes I don't. But I pray for them. I pray for them in hope that, like Cornelius, their prayers and alms/good deeds might come up as a memorial before God, that He will send them something to open their hearts to the gospel. And He is a good God, the Friend of sinners, who longs to save, so I wait. Who knows how long Cornelius feared and served God before God sent Peter to him, so that he and his household could be saved?

Leaving Vancouver is odd; in nearly three years here I have made so many friends, and I have shared Jesus with people, some of them over and over again, and I have not seen anyone turn to Christ in repentance and faith. Admittedly, I have missed many opportunities, but I do believe that God yet works in ways I cannot see, and that He wastes nothing of what I have shared, can redeem all I have missed. I have to wait in hope and pray for the people I love that, like Cornelius, their deeds, especially their kindnesses toward me, will come as a memorial before God just when the time is right.

  • I have gotten to share with my Chinese friend again.
  • God has answered quite a few prayers recently. One of the girls who does Bible study with me on Mondays has asked for prayer for speaking opportunities, and God has given her at least five opportunities over the next few months. This is a source of income for her, so it's incredible to see the way God is providing. I also got to pray with a friend for a job for her a few days ago, and the next day she called me to tell me about the door God opened for a job.
  • God seems to be raising up a man to take over the musical portion of the services at the Iranian church. This is a huge blessing.
Prayer requests
  • An ongoing request: for my heart as I prepare to leave. Transitioning out of this life is a lot to process. I'm missing people preemptively, and I'm not sure how to deal with that. Going home is almost a month away, and it is so soon.
  • Please pray for God to open the hearts of my Chinese friend, the guy that lives upstairs, my landlord, the new people at the Iranian center, and others. Pray for open doors to share the gospel and for boldness to do it.
  • Please pray for wisdom in transitioning to the new music guy; I never have to work with someone else on this stuff, so I'm not sure how to do it now, and I want to be as helpful and encouraging as possible.
  • Pray for wisdom and grace to finish well, and for wisdom in priorities in this last month.

Thank you so, so much for praying for me,

No comments: