Do you sometimes wonder if God hears your prayers? Are there times when you pray and pray but it feels like those prayers don’t go any higher than the ceiling? The truth is we can all go through times in our lives when we experience a sense of futility in our prayer life.
But just because we don’t feel like God hears our prayers does that actually mean that He doesn’t? In Jeremiah 33:3 (NKJV) God says this,
“Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know”.
God promises to listen to us every time we call out to Him, even when it feels like He hasn’t heard. The story of Cornelius and Peter is a story of persistent prayer and a divine answer all in God’s perfect timing.
Cornelius was a Roman centurion who lived in the town of Caesarea, the administrative center of Palestine. At the turn of the first Millennium AD, Rome was a powerful empire, towering over most of the then known world.
It was also a war machine and Roman soldiers were known for being battle-hardened veterans with little regard for human life. As a centurion, Cornelius must have seen his fair share of war and bloodshed.
And yet the Bible describes him as a deeply spiritual man who was devoted to God and committed to investing in others. He was also a man of prayer. Acts 10:2 says that he always prayed to God.
One day Cornelius had a vision from God and an angel appeared to him. The first thing the angel said to him was that his prayers had been heard and answered. We don’t know precisely how long Cornelius had been praying but we do know that he had been praying fervently.
We also know that God not only heard his prayers but had also sent an angel to answer them. The angel directed him to send a small contingency of men to visit the apostle Peter, who was living in Joppa at the time.
Around the time that Cornelius’ men were drawing close to where Peter was staying, Peter went up onto the roof of the house to pray. As he was praying God gave Peter a vision. It was a strange vision about unclean animals and Peter wrestled to understand the meaning.
After his time in prayer, Peter made his way back into the house. While he was going down the Holy Spirit spoke to him and told him that three men were waiting to speak to him. He was instructed to go with the men without any hesitation.
Peter found Cornelius’ men waiting for him downstairs and when they had explained their errand, Peter gladly went with them. When he got to Cornelius’ home, he found that Cornelius had invited as many people as he could cram into his house to hear Peter share the good news of Jesus with them.
The story of Peter and Cornelius highlights the power of prayer. Cornelius had been praying to God for wisdom and direction for a while and God answered his prayers in the most miraculous way.
Peter went up onto the roof of his house to pray and God led him to share the gospel with Cornelius, a man he had never met and would never have met under normal circumstances. God orchestrated the entire story and prayer was central to it all. God tells us this in Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”.
God loves us and He has plans for our lives. The story of Peter and Cornelius teaches us a few important lessons about prayer and its role in our lives.
First, when you’re looking for wisdom and guidance in life as you try to figure out what choices to make or what direction to move in, whether it be personally, professionally, or spiritually, turn to God in prayer. As Cornelius did, ask Him for wisdom, ask Him for help.
Second, set aside time each day to spend in prayer just like Peter did. And when you pray, don’t just pour out your heart to God but take a moment to listen. There may be times when you’re praying that God impresses you to pray for someone else or reach out to someone in need.
Prayer can create a small space of time, where we can clear our minds and wait for God to speak to us, as clearly and as certainly as we speak to Him.
If you would like to know more about prayer and how it can help you deal with the challenges of life, I’d like to recommend our free Bible Study Course. It’s called, The Secret of Answered Prayer Discover Bible study guide.