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Prayer and the Paradigm Shift that Saved the World!

Posted by NandCard , 24 May 2013 · 1249 views

In Acts, chapters 10 and 11, we read the familiar story of Peter and Cornelius. Cornelius was in Caesarea and was praying (10:1-3). Peter was in nearby Joppa and was also praying (10:9ff). The story is one of how God uses the prayer of a seeker and a servant to bring about a momentous change of understanding reality – a paradigm shift.

Paradigms are assumptions and ways of thinking that, if we are not careful, we can mistakenly believe represents the true reality. The really big story in these chapters of Acts is that the standard paradigm for understanding all that Christ’s redemptive death and resurrection mean radically changed.

When Peter was praying, God opened his understanding to see that the Good News of Jesus wasn’t just for one kind of people – not just for the Jews. Many reading this blog are Gentiles, right? So, it literally took this paradigm shift for many of us to have access to the Gospel! This is the paradigm shift that that saved the world!

A review of the paradigm shift of Acts 9-11 has something vital to say to us and our paradigms today. And an important part of the message is that helpful paradigm shifts grow out of prayer.

Peter’s prayer led him to become a paradigm pioneer – a first to grasp the new, better view of reality. This was not simply because he was wired for it or predisposed to it. On the contrary, his strength over the long haul was ministry among Jewish people. No, what qualified Peter to play a paradigm-shattering role at just the right time was his prayer life.

But look at something else here: God also worked this remarkable change through the prayers of another man who was not yet even a follower of Jesus! Despite sincere seeking, Cornelius was not already saved. The angel told him what he needed was to hear the Gospel’s claims from Peter.

But he was praying prayers that God heard and answered! He reached out to God in an unorthodox way, God reached back to him by sending an Angel who tells him to find a Gospel-carrier.

This is a beautiful picture that we are seeing replayed again and again today among followers of Islam. Some people are genuinely seeking God. Angels are appearing to folks, and sometimes people tell us they’ve seen Jesus himself come to them in their dreams and point them to people who can share the Gospel with them.

If there is an inaccurate paradigm regarding Muslims I’d like to smash today it is that all are our hardened enemies. The idea that a billion Muslims in this world today are all the same, and that they are all enemies of yours and of Christ’s, is not true. If that challenges your view of things, I’d like to suggest that your view is just a paradigm, not the true reality.

Now, Islam does represent a major challenge to the spread of the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. For many followers of Islam the problem is not that they do not know about Jesus, but rather what they think about Jesus and about his followers. This leaves generations of Muslims separated from what the Prophet Isa (Jesus) said is the only News that can save (John 14:6).

The reality is that there are some Cornelius-types in our world today! Some are reaching out to the God that is reaching back to them. Some are even seeing angels or Jesus come to them in dreams and visions.

Could you pray for such dreams and visions? Can you imagine God asking you to go speak to a Muslim friend or neighbor because “he’s praying?” Do these things require a shift of your current paradigm?

The good news is that prayer is where our paradigms change in ways that can save the world! Can we begin praying in new ways for the Muslim world? Can we be open to new things, like Peter was?

This may be a paradigm shift for us. I pray that we make it.

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Ruthie Hankins
May 24 2013 10:35 AM
Thanks for some great thoughts. I like what you said here:

"For many followers of Islam the problem is not that they do not know about Jesus, but rather what they think about Jesus and about his followers"

We also need to pray that we as followers of Jesus will truly reflect his grace rather than reinforcing a negitive paradigm held by many in the Muslim community.
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You are right, Ruthie. I've heard it said that there are two key barriers for people to come to Christ: 1) they don't know any Jesus followers and 2) they know Jesus followers whose lives they would never want to emulate. There are many Muslims today in both categories.
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