Saul of Tarsus was one of the least likely individuals that any of the disciples of CHRIST would have marked out as one of GOD’s elect children. He was a Jew’s Jew, steeped in the traditions of that religion, in which, he was raised and trained. He was a student of the Scriptures and a pupil of the premier teacher (Gamaliel) of the Jewish law and tradition, of his day.
He was numbered among the Pharisees which was the strictest sect of the Jews, even excelling his peers in zeal for the law. He hated the gospel and those who preached it, so much, that he sought letters of reprisal from the Sanhedrin (i.e.; Jewish high court) against them in order to see them ultimately put to death. He oversaw the stoning of Stephen. To say he was the enemy of the churches would be to put it mildly.
So it comes as no surprise when we read about the fear and trepidation, which Ananais expressed, when the LORD told him to seek Saul of Tarsus out at a fellow believer’s house. “Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.” (Acts 9:13-14) Saul’s reputation had surely preceded him.
But the LORD would demonstrate that HIS purpose is beyond the comprehension of men and the wideness of HIS mercy would include such an one as this Saul of Tarsus, who would later confess (as he grew in grace) that he was the chief of sinners. For the LORD had not only ordained Saul as an heir of SALVATION and ETERNAL LIFE, but to be a vessel in HIS hand to take the Gospel to the Gentiles as HE told Ananais. “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.” (Acts 9:15-16)
The scriptures make it clear that everyone of those which believe in HIM do so because they are ordained unto ETERNAL LIFE just as much so as was Saul of Tarsus. “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48) They did not receive ETERNAL LIFE because they believed but rather as the scripture says they believed because they were ordained to ETERNAL LIFE. This is an important distinction which cannot be disregarded lest one seek to overturn the truth of GOD and give men the glory which rightly belongs to HIM.
Who among the sons of men could stir himself up to call upon the LORD and believe in HIM apart from the sovereign work of GOD? The calling of each one out of darkness and into the light may not all be as dramatic, as that of Saul, yet the certainty of each one’s calling rests in the hands of the same ONE who arrested Saul on the road to Damascus so as to fulfill HIS purpose.
The LORD told Ananias that HE had prepared the heart of Saul and that he was sending Ananias to minister unto him, the truth of GOD, restoring his sight (for he was struck blind) and that he would be filled with the HOLY GHOST. Such things presently occurred and Saul demonstrated his obedience to the LORD JESUS CHRIST and a desire to be known as one of HIS disciples by being baptized. This was quite a simple act which men have argued the significance of for centuries, some even denying that those that believe should be baptized (i.e.; immersed in water). Or coming up with convoluted schemes of who is qualified or authorized to baptize; or what constitutes what they would term “valid baptism”. The only things that I find in the scriptures that define “valid baptism” is water, a confession of belief that JESUS CHRIST is the SON of GOD, and a good conscience before HIM in entering therein. Let those who believe be baptized without delay. What doth hinder it?
The LORD told Ananias of the fact that HE had already done a work of grace in Saul for HE told him, “behold he prayeth”. Nothing is more common among the true saints of GOD than a love for the place of prayer and the activity of it. In the same fashion in which religious men have “regulated” and defined “baptism” so too have they sought to do the same with prayer. Sadly in many congregations of those who call themselves the followers of CHRIST, more time is spent on every activity other than that which is spent in prayer, and often most praying is just a group of sentences that are learned and repeated week after week by those appointed to “pray”.
So what is “prayer”? Essentially, the word “prayer” is synonymous with “worship”. True prayer must begin and end with worship. We see this in the model prayer which the LORD JESUS gave to HIS disciples. HE begins in exalting the FATHER by recognizing HIS high and holy dwelling place and the reverence which is due unto HIM. “Hallowed be THY NAME”. HE closes HIS prayer with the same as HE magnifies the eternal nature of HIS Kingdom and the extent of HIS glory. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” (Mat 6:13)
We often hear men speak about a “worship service”, but sadly this is (in many cases) nothing more in the minds of most than just a name for time spent “singing a few songs”, taking up an offering, and then listening to someone pontificate about a passage of scripture. None of these things are in themselves wrong but to describe such as a “worship service” is in most cases as out of place as calling a meeting house, “the sanctuary”. Worship (and true prayer) is not primarily concerned with great swelling words, but is often demonstrated by silence before HIM who is worthy of all praise. “But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Hab 2:20) “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psa 46:10) “Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” (Zec 2:13) “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom 8:26)
While prayer is always to be “worship” and the giving of thanks and praise, it may also involve “supplications” (i.e.; making requests or petitions). Sadly this comprises the sum total of what most think of when they hear the word “prayer”. Many look at prayer in a superstitious manner just as one would consider getting a genie to come out of a lamp when it is rubbed. We are exhorted to “make our requests known unto GOD”, but that is a secondary function of true prayer.
Prayer is an exercise which the LORD uses to cause us to be reconciled to the will of GOD rather than as many view it, a way to get GOD to change HIS will to be aligned with ours. “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Mat 6:10) A man who is fervent in prayer delights to see the will of GOD accomplished in the Earth, even as it was ordained in Heaven. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (Jas 5:16) Even as Elijah prayed according to the will of GOD and saw those things occur according to the purpose of GOD. This is most clearly demonstrated by the LORD JESUS CHRIST as HE prayed, “Saying,-- not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) If HE who is the AUTHOR of our FAITH prayed to be reconciled to the will of HIS FATHER, ought it not be so with us?
True prayer must be prompted by the SPIRIT of GOD and is not dependent on a man’s learning, faith, eloquence, or religious habits. Yet that activity which is most characteristic of those who have fled for refuge to CHRIST is that they will pray. There is no one acceptable time to pray. Yet those who are the followers of CHRIST will take time to pray. How often we read of our SAVIOR that HE spent all night in prayer. Due to the weakness of our flesh, we often cannot watch and pray even for an hour. It is by this demonstration of our weakness that the LORD would reveal to us that our strength is in HIM and not ourselves. The children of GOD desire the place of prayer far more than their flesh can participate in that exercise, even as HE told HIS disciples (without a word of condemnation), “the SPIRIT is willing but the flesh is weak”.
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:20-21) If someone were to describe the activity which most characterized your life, would they say “behold he prayeth”?mam