Summary: #6 in the series "Patterns for Prayer." Examines the role of prayer in salvation, on the part of both the seeker and the evangelist.
The Times-Reporter of New Philadelphia, Ohio, reported in September, 1985 a celebration of a New Orleans municipal pool. The party around the pool was held to celebrate the first summer in memory without a drowning at the New Orleans city pool. In honor of the occasion, 200 people gathered, including 100 certified lifeguards. As the party was breaking up and the four lifeguards on duty began to clear the pool, they found a fully dressed body in the deep end. They tried to revive Jerome Moody, 31, but it was too late. He had drowned surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their successful season. (Times-Reporter, September 1985)
We who have the life giving message of New Life in Jesus are the Life Guards in this drowning world but, sometimes we’re so caught up in our party that we fail to throw out the lifeline to those we are called to serve. How can we do better? What is the key to doing a better job with the charge we have been given?
Prayer. Prayer is the key, the centerpiece to salvation. Here in our story today as the message of Salvation makes the first leap from the Jewish world to the Gentile World, as the evangelization of the World really begins in earnest, Prayer is center stage.
So as we continue our look at the patterns for prayer found in the book of Acts it’s appropriate that we stop here and look at prayer as it relates to salvation. In fact in this one story we see both sides of the coin: Prayer as it relates to those who are seeking salvation and to those called to share the good news of salvation. Id like to look first at how prayer is essential to those seeking the Lord.
And the first thing that Jumps out at me as I read this passage is that...
1. God Honors the prayer of the seeker
1-5 1At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3One 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!" 4Cornelius 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. 5Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter."
God hears the prayer of the seeker. It’s not that God was particularly impressed with the quality of Cornelius’ righteous living--none of us earn salvation and our attempts are as "filthy rags" the Word reminds us. But God sees the attitude of the heart that motivates this attempt at righteousness. He sees that Cornelius genuinely wants to serve Him. God said through the prophet Jeremiah that "You will find me when You seek me with all of your heart."
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that "he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
More than that Jesus said to the woman at the well that the Father is seeking us.. For those who will worship in Spirit and in truth.
God Honors the prayers of the seeker. But seeking and trying to earn God’s favor is not enough. Which brings us to the second thing I’d like to point out about prayer as it relates to the seeker...
2. More than prayer and good works is required for salvation
The way that God rewards the seeker is by showing them the truth. In the same way that looking for aspirin won’t cure your headache, seeking God and doing good works won’t save you from sin and its penalty.
Once God brings you to the truth you need to trust in it to be saved. Perhaps there is someone here who has desperately been seeking God. You’ve been praying, looking for answers doing your best to live a life that is pleasing to God. God has rewarded your effort to seek Him by bringing you here this morning to hear the good news. Let me read it to you just as Cornelius heard it:
vv. 36-43 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39"We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen....43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."