The prayer devotional today sent me to verse 1 of this passage as one of a number speaking about the centrality of prayer in the early church.
The instruction was “make a note of the circumstances surrounding the prayer and the effect of the prayers.”
Yet this passage doesn’t talk about the effects of any specific prayers. Peter and John were on their way to the temple at prayer time, presumably intending to pray, but we are not told of any pre-existing prayers. The end of the previous chapter talks about the believers all being together, devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to prayer, so I think we understand that Peter and John were living in a state of ongoing prayerfulness, and it is that which forms the backdrop to this story.
It’s another of those very familiar incidents which I’ve just noticed something new about.
Look at the verses outlined above – the beggar asked for money, both Peter and John looked straight at him, but then they had to tell him to look at them.
I’ve always pictured this as the beggar having done something particular to get their attention, which in my culture includes making eye contact. I’ve imagined dozens of blind, lame or otherwise needy beggars sitting along the side of the path all calling out, and this one somehow managing to catch Peter and John’s eye and make his case.
Yet it seems that that’s not quite how it worked. He hadn’t particularly honed in on them, but they somehow were both prompted to look at him – presumably because of this atmosphere of prayerfulness they lived in.
He wasn’t particularly expectant. He hadn’t singled them out as potential answers to his problem, but God had singled him out as the person to be helped that day.
Why? We’ll never know – at least this side of eternity – but it served as another reminder for me of something I’ve written about before: the more we’re immersed in God and in prayer, the more he is able to speak to us and bring to our attention situations he wants to change and needs he wants to meet.
What a privilege!