Have you ever noticed that God seems to especially visit those who are spiritually prepared, especially those who have devoted themselves to a life of prayer?
Do you remember how Hannah was in bitterness of soul and prayed to the Lord, weeping in anguish, and pouring out her soul before the Lord? Because she had come before the Lord, in His house, and poured out her soul before Him, He heard her and answered her prayer. Hannah and Elkinah rose early the next morning, after hearing Eli’s prophecy, and worshiped before the Lord, before they returned to their house at Ramah. The fruit of Hannah’s encounter with God was Samuel.
Do you remember a certain centurion named Cornelius, and how he was a devout man who feared God with all of his household. He gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day when he was praying and fasting (Acts 10:30) God visited Cornelius in a vision and told him that his prayers and alms had come up to Him as a memorial before Him. The fruit of Cornelius’s encounter with God was that he was privileged to have the apostle Peter visit him and preach Jesus Christ to his household and to have his household and best friends be the Gentiles upon whom the Holy Spirit first fell.
You may also remember a certain Jesus Christ, who, while He was being baptized, prayed and heaven was opened (Luke 3:21). You might remember as well that when He took Peter, James, and John up to the mountain that as He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening (Luke 9:28-29).
And so when we come to today’s lesson, we should almost expect with the hope and excitement of a kid on Christmas Eve that Peter and John will encounter God in Acts 3 when we hear Luke tell us in verse 1 that they went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. (Since it was at the ninth hour that today’s miracle occurs and at which time Cornelius has a vision of God, maybe we should all try praying at the ninth hour today, which would be 3:00 in the afternoon. Huh? What’s that? Oh yeah, I forgot that it was also at the ninth hour that Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and then died.)
All of this gets me to wondering: does praying, giving alms, fasting, that is, being spiritually prepared, do something to attract the attention and grace and power of God? I don’t mean, of course, that we merit the grace of God, but isn’t it possible that by so being awake to the Holy Spirit in us and around us that the merit of Christ in us makes it more possible for us to see God and receive His grace and power?
If this is at all possible, then shouldn’t we live such lives that we are always at spiritual attention, always hyper-aware of the Spirit of God in our lives and around our lives? Isn’t this a large part of what prayer, almsgiving, and fasting are designed for – to attune our hearts to God and His ways? I find it intriguing that it is these three things, seen most clearly in Cornelius’s life, about which Jesus Christ Himself specifically teaches on the Sermon on the Mount.
What if we saw prayer, almsgiving, and fasting not as burdensome spiritual disciplines but as our daily bread by which God feeds us Himself and strengthens our senses to see Him? What if they are like the honey that Jonathan ate after fighting the Philistines and which caused his countenance to brighten?
I think it’s possible that even apostles like Peter and John had many days where they healed no one. They must have had down days too, a possibility we don’t often think about. They must have had moments and days during which they were not as attuned to the Lord and His will.
But not today. Today they are going to the Temple to pray at 3:00, and today when they happen to come across the lame beggar they fix their eyes on him and in the name of Christ heal him. Today, because they were in tune with the Lord, they fix their eyes on the lame man as they might have fixed their eyes on their Lord Himself.
And that’s my point. I think the Lord comes to us many times during the day, and we miss Him. He comes in the form of the lame men in our lives, only we don’t see Him because we have not turned ourselves back towards Him, facing Him.
How many times in a day might the Lord present Himself to us and we don’t see Him because we haven’t been looking at Him? How many lame men go unhealed because we can’t see Jesus?
And so I wonder how I might find more of His daily bread, His eye-opening honey, in my life today. It’s not as if I don’t already know the answer: He’s been beating me over the head with it lately. I’m supposed to pray more often and more fervently. Only He has a strange way of beating me over the head: He sends gentle waves of reminders, like random caresses of a breeze. And too often I dismiss them as insignificant voices telling me what I already know.
Maybe He’s challenging me as well to give alms, for in giving alms I have to see Him. I have to trust Him that I’ll still have enough and that it was His to give in the first place. And maybe I should be fasting more so that every time I feel deprived and hungry or weak I’ll come back to Him for more of He who is my Daily Bread.
This isn’t what I expected to see today in Acts 3:1-10, but reading faithfully and prayerfully (and writing today at a time when I am feeling particularly weak), this is how He’s chosen to feed me.
So like the lame man given strength, I will leave His presence walking, leaping, and praising Him, looking with bright eyes for the next time I may see Him.
Prayer: Creator of eyes and Healer of vision, I pray that You would restore my sight today that I may see You. Teach me again to pray, that I might seek You and not myself. Through the things of this world may I see You so that I am never far from You. Feed me with Yourself today that, being brightened by the sweetness of Your daily bread, I may recognize You when You come to me. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Reflect upon today or yesterday (it will depend upon when you are meditating upon this): how might God have come to your life?
2. Practice staying aware of God’s presence every time you leave Him in prayer so that you might recognize Him when He comes later in the day.
Resolution: I resolve to pray in such a way that even when I have left more formal prayer today I may stay so close to You that I will look for You and see You the next time You come.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson