Cornelius’ Memorial

Acts 10: 4      (CJB)

Cornelius stared at the angel, terrified. “What is it, sir?” he asked. “Your prayers,” replied the angel, “and your acts of charity have gone up into God’s presence, so that he has you on his mind.”

Ivey Ministries has been working on our prayer ministry and developing a prayer team. Naturally I have been spending time in prayer verses. There are a number which have grabbed my attention but how can this one not cause us to pause? Today’s verse was taken from the Complete Jewish Bible. The NASB reads, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” The very idea that our prayers ascend to God’s presence and stand as a memorial is mind boggling. Here is what I want you to hear, God honors your prayers.

Let’s make this story even more real. Cornelius was not a Jew. In fact, he was a Roman soldier, an officer at that. He was far from the model of a follower of Christ. The Jewish Messiah, afterall, came to the Jews and the Jews were not in a rush to accept Gentile believers. Cornelius, though, was a devout believer. He gave to the poor and “prayed to God continually,” (v. 2). The Passion Translation says he was, “a devout man of extraordinary character who worshiped God and prayed regularly, together with all his family. He also had a heart for the poor and gave generously to help them.” Though he was not a Jew, not of the chosen people, his faith, actually, his devotion which was demonstrated through his generosity and his prayers ascended to the very throne room of God and stood before God as a memorial. Cornelius got God’s attention. He so impressed God that God sent an angel from heaven to bless the man. If you read the rest of Cornelius’ story you will see that God sent Peter to Cornelius’ town, to his very home so that he and his whole household might be saved. Now Peter was one of the leaders of the church. There were plenty of other folks that could have traveled to Caesarea, but God sent for Peter because he had Cornelius on His mind. Cornelius’ devotion stood in the throne room of God as a memorial before the Almighty. The book of Revelation says that the prayers of the saints are incense before God (Revelation 5: 8). Cornelius’ prayers must have continuously wafted before God such that it got God’s attention. It blessed God so much that it moved Him to action. First, He sent an angel then He sent Peter. God, literally, moved heaven and earth for this man.

That is exciting to me. Sometimes when we pray it feels like we are spitting into the wind but, not so. Your Father is collecting those prayers and then He uses them as the scent for His throne room. You can get God’s attention with prayer. You can move Him to action but not only for the people you pray for. God is going to return the blessing to you. That’s good news. Maybe He will send an angel to you.

Let this be a call to prayer. Let’s shake things up. Now that we know the spiritual realm is taking notice of and moved by our prayer, let’s kick it up a notch. How exciting could things become in just 30 days if we all increased our prayers. And here’s the thing, it need not be hard or even time consuming. I am all for getting alone in your private space and communing with God, but you cannot “pray without ceasing” if you wait for that perfect setting. Here is what I ask of you instead, pray when you are pumping gas. You’ve got nothing better to do. Pray in the shower, driving to work, at the grocery store, waiting for the bus, waiting in line at the bank, etc. The point is there are many times during the day that we can bless God and others with a simple prayer lifted up to heaven. Don’t make it wordy or complicated. You can say twelve prayers while the eloquent people say one. Just be real and talk to the Lord about the people you see around you and don’t think you have to list everyone individually. Pray for “everyone who works at this bank, all the people pumping gas right now, everyone who attends the YMCA, everyone at work” and so on.

Lastly, consider joining our prayer team. It’s a Christian thing to do. If you are too busy to be on a prayer team, you’re just too busy. Quit something. Be a part of a team that is doing God’s work. I believe God will bless you for your faithfulness. Don’t you? Just click “reply” and let me know you’re in.

Holy Heathen

Acts 10: 4

Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”

This is from the story of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. It is a story of faith and devotion. Cornelius garnered God’s attention, which is remarkable in that he was a Gentile. This soldier, though, is responsible for a major change in the church.

The Messiah was the promise of the Jews. There was a great debate in the first century church about Gentiles becoming members of the fold. It was a radical idea, to say the least. For all time, there was great separation between the Jews and everyone else. The Jews were set apart as God’s chosen. Most of the Old Testament is the chronicle of God’s people opposing and be opposed by the Gentile nations. God led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of promise clearing out the nations before them. At times, He even gave Israel explicit instructions to slay every person, even women and children. He not only condoned, but in specific situations, ordered genocide. You will understand, then, how opposed the Jews were to share the Messiah and salvation through him with Gentiles.

As if that is not enough incentive for the Jews to exclude Gentiles, consider also that the Romans were an occupying army. They were rulers over Israel, military oppressors. The Jews were under Roman rule as defeated foes and Rome exerted great control over the Jewish nation. In most meaningful ways, Israel was again captive to a foreign power. Imagine, then, when some of these Gentiles began clamoring to join the church of Jesus. Cornelius was worse than the garden variety Gentile. He was an officer of the oppressor army. He was part of the power structure which allowed the Jews Messiah to die a horrible death on a cross. Could anyone be more vile to a Jew?

None the less, God heard this Gentile officer. Cornelius’ gifts of money and his devotion to prayer ascended to the throne room of God. Cornelius moved God through his faith and devotion. God was so moved that He summoned the Apostle Peter and sent him to Cornelius.

Peter was one of those who argued for the sanctity of the Jewish elect. In this bold move, though, God gave Peter a vision that forever changed the complexion of the Christian church. Upon his arrival at the home of Cornelius, Peter broached this very subject saying, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him,” (Acts 10: 28). None the less, there he was, standing in this heathen’s home. Why? It could not have been easy for him to depart from cultural norms and laws.

Gentiles are now welcomed members of God’s holy family but it began with one man’s devotion to prayer and the giving of alms. His prayers and his giving caught the attention of heaven. God sent an angel to him and a vision to Peter. God roused the leader of the church and sent him to the home of a Gentile so that salvation could come upon Cornelius’ household.

What will God do for those who are already of the household of faith when we emulate Cornelius by dedicating ourselves to prayers and to giving alms? How would you like the report about your prayer life and gifts to God ascending to the throne room? We need to understand that from our position here on earth, we can cause a stir in heaven. Perhaps God will send an angel to you or stir a prophet to visit you. Cornelius was as unlikely a candidate for divine intervention as one could imagine and yet because he was faithful, God literally moved heaven and earth for him. What a splendid testimony!

This is a call for us all to dedicate ourselves to greater devotion. It is early in the year; still a good time to make a New Year’s resolution. What would life look like, what would the church look like if we all resolve to be known, by heaven, as people of prayer? What if we each set a personal goal to distinguish ourselves through our giving?

Post your thoughts below in the comment section or visit our site at www.iveyministries.org. What does this story tell us and how might it impact our lives as well as the church?