This semester I have been writing about how prayer and mission go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. There might be no better passage to prove this than the story told in Acts 10 when God connects Cornelius and Peter through prayer.
In one case, God speaks to Cornelius in prayer by sending Peter to him. In the other case, God speaks to Peter in prayer by sending him to Cornelius.
In Prayer, God Sends People to You
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.”
Cornelius was a seeker. He sought to please God and do good for others. He even prayed regularly. He was a theist, but he did not yet know or follow Jesus. It was in the place of prayer that God revealed Himself to him.
One of the most important things we can do when we have a friend who is genuinely interested in seeking Jesus, is to teach them to pray. If they pray to God asking Him to reveal Himself, God will almost always do so.
One of favorite stories personally was the time I met my friend Brandon. I was leading a missional community to my neighborhood and one thing we did was simply go door to door asking neighbors for prayer requests. The night that I knocked on Brandon’s door, he asked me to pray that he would find God. I said, “I’d love to talk about that now if you have time.” He said he had to study but was willing to meet the next week.
When we met the next week, he told me that the girl he had intended to propose to had just broken up with him that night and he was heartbroken. His brother had recently began to follow Jesus and had been witnessing to him so his spiritual interest had been stirred recently. That night after his girlfriend broke up with him, he prayed, “God, if You’re real, You better show me.” Five minutes later I knocked at the door! Needless to say, God had him. The next week when we met he put his faith in Jesus.
God hears the prayers of everyone, and He most often reveals Himself to us while we are genuinely praying and seeking Him. We should all be praying, “God, reveal Yourself to me.” We should especially encourage our seeking friends to do so. When they pray that prayer, God will answer by sending someone to them (likely you).
In Prayer, God Sends You to People
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.