Summary: The wonderful things God reveals to us when we are totally focused on Him in centering prayer.
When I first read this passage, I saw examples of centered prayer and how God can speak to you and will speak to you if we will only center on Him and listen to what He has to say.
The first centered prayer session was Cornelius. Cornelius was a Gentile, but in verse 2 we find that he prayed to God regularly. I suspect that it was during one of his scheduled prayer times, one afternoon about 3, that he received a vision from God.
I can see Cornelius sitting there in focused prayer—listening for God to speak, when suddenly an angel of God appears and calls his name. This angel, in this vision, gave Cornelius specific instructions to send men to Joppa and bring back a man named Simon Peter. He is even told where Simon Peter was staying—at the house of Simon the tanner. He is also given directions to the house—whose house is by the sea. He is told to have his men bring back Simon Peter, a Jew, to his home.
Centering prayer will do the same thing for you. If you haven’t seen lately, if you haven’t heard lately, from God while in centering prayer, then there is something you are not doing correctly in your prayer time. God gave me specific instructions this past week while at a 2 ½ day conference retreat. During a prayer walk I was taking, God said, “I want to talk to the people. But they aren’t giving me the opportunity. They are praying, but all they are doing is lifting up their requests to Me. Some thank Me and give praise for blessings I have sent. But still, before I can say anything to them, they are leaving their prayer time. I just want to talk to them.”
So I promised God I would tell you. GOD WANTS TO TALK TO YOU. GIVE HIM THE TIME TO TELL YOU THINGS BEFORE YOU WALK AWAY FROM YOUR PRAYER. Get alone with God, in solitude, just you and Him. Stop talking! And just listen for what God has to say.
But brace yourself! Many, many times when God speaks to us we are surprised at what He has to say. You may not like it. You might even get offended by what God tells you. You might get embarrassed. Who knows? But God has told us that He wants to talk to us, individually, if only we will stop and hear His still small voice.
So Cornelius’ men set off for Joppa to get Simon Peter. The next day about noon we are told that Peter went up to the roof of Simon the tanner’s house, to pray. Once again, we see someone getting alone to be with God. He went to the roof to be by himself to talk to God.
While involved in centering prayer, Peter falls into a trance. In other words, he is seeing what God is showing him. Why? Because he got alone with God, he centered his thoughts on God, and instead of praying for anyone or anything, he listened.
So during his centered prayer, here is what God shows him. Heaven opens up and something like a large sheet is being lowered down from heaven, held by its four corners. Contained in this sheet are all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. He hears a voice telling him to get up, kill and eat these creatures.
Now we have to remember that Peter is Jewish. Jews have a strict code of what they can eat and what they cannot eat. Even the food they eat must be prepared in kosher pots, and served in kosher eating vessels. This was Peter’s culture. This was his belief. A list of what the Jewish people were allowed to eat and not eat can be found in Leviticus 11.
They could eat beef, or sheep, or goat. But they couldn’t eat pork, or rabbit, or camel. They could eat any fish with fins and scales. But it had to have both fins and scales. That means they couldn’t eat catfish, or shark. They couldn’t eat eagle, or ostrich, or owl, or hawk, buzzard, sea gull or pelican. But other birds like chicken, quail, and dove they could eat. They could eat the locust, cricket or grasshopper. But there were restrictions depending on the leg structure of the insect. So when God tells him to eat from this vast array of animals, Peter says, “Surely not, Lord. I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
And then, in this centered prayer, God tells Peter to never call anything impure that He has made clean. Notice in verse 16 that this didn’t happen just once in this vision. It happened three times.
So Peter is now wondering, while still in prayer, what all this meant. While he is pondering over it, the Spirit speaks again and says, (v. 19) “Simon, (notice he is called by his name), three men (specifically three. Do you see how specific God will be if we will listen?) are looking for you. Don’t hesitate to go with them because I have sent them.”