“Behold, he prayeth.”
This was said by the exalted Christ to the prophet Ananias about Saul of Tarsus, who was sitting blind in Damascus and praying to God without ceasing day and night.
But imagine that! Saul had been brought up as aPharisee. He himself tells us that he was circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law a Pharisee. Speaking of zeal, he persecuted the church. In regard to the righteousness of the law he considered himself blameless. In one word, he had, according to his own estimation, been praying all his life.
And now it is said of a man like that: Behold, he prayeth!
That sets one to thinking, and even gives reason for some serious self-examination.
Saul, as you know, met the living Christ on his way to Damascus.
No, he had not been searching for Him, nor even inquiring about Him. Quite the opposite was true. Here was a man who had sat at the feet of Gamaliel, being taught of him, while Jesus was carrying out His earthly ministry. Saul had heard much of this Jesus, and had some strong convictions that this man was an imposter. He had agreed that the chief priests and rulers had done their duty when they condemned this blasphemer to be crucified outside of Jerusalem. He had believed the wild stories of the guard, who said that the body of Jesus had been stolen. He preferred to leave it at that, rather than to accept the word of Jesus’ disciples that He was risen. Who had ever heard of anyone rising from the dead?
His blood had boiled when he saw the schism that was created in Jerusalem. He seethed with rage when he heard that those followers of Jesus talked about the risen Lord pouring out His Spirit into the church. He took no stock in all those miracles which these disciples were supposed to be performing on the sick and the crippled. It was hard for him to understand that gullible people would join the ranks of these imposters, and that by the thousands. And when Stephen was stoned, the least he could do to express his approval was to stand by and hold the garments of those who were taking up stones to snuff out this fanatic’s life.
Zealously he had organized his own attack on Jesus. He made havoc of the churches, entering into every house, and brought out men and women to commit them to prison. Still breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9:1), he had desired letters from the high priest, granting him permission to go to Damascus, in order to search out those who were of that “WAY,” and to bring them bound to Jerusalem. The “cause” of Christ must be wiped out once and for all.
But he never carried out his plan.
The Lord stopped him on the way. As he tells it: “And it came to pass that, as I made my journey and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me’?
And I answered: Who art thou, Lord?
And he said unto me: ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth Whom thou persecutest’!
And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid: but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
And I said: What shall I do, Lord?
And the Lord said unto me, ‘Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do’.
And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came in to Damascus.” (Acts 22:6-11)
That was the day Saul became the slave of Jesus Christ, no more following his own whims, but obeying the will of Him Who called him.
That was the day the Spirit took mastery in his heart. And he, humbled, broken to the dust, prayed; prayed as he never before had prayed. He stormed the throne of grace, sought God’s face, bowed in worship in His presence, poured out his soul without ceasing.
Have you ever prayed like that? Recently?
What did he pray? Actually Scripture does not tell us. Yet it is not difficult to surmise the content of his prayers.
Humbly he must have confessed that he was the chief of sinners, for he had persecuted the church of God and thus persecuted Christ Himself.
In bitter contrition he must have confessed his stubborn kicking against the pricks, defending his own self-righteousness and refusing to confess Jesus as Lord.
Shamefacedly he told the Lord how blind he had been in his spiritual rebellion; a blindness that was evident to him now as physically he groped about with scales on his eyes.
In sincere repentance He confessed Christ as his Lord. Had he not unwittingly already done that when the great light of the glorified Christ had appeared to him on the way? Now he did it deliberately, praying: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
“Behold, he prayeth”
What makes this statement so much more significant is the fact, that Saul is not saying this about himself, nor is any other mere man saying this about him. But the risen Lord in heaven is saying this about one of His sheep for whom He died, one of his chosen vessels whom He called out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Christ Himself had created that prayer in Saul’s heart by the Spirit of Christ. And the fruit of the Spirit arises as a well-pleasing sacrifice to God. It was better than all the smoke and blood of steers and bullocks.
Still more, Christ stands in heaven as Saul’s High Priest and Intercessor. He takes that prayer and presents it to His Father. He even adds His own prayer to it: “Holy Father, sanctify him through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so send I him into the world. Neither pray I for him alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through his word. . . . Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am: that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17.
And God heard Christ.
Thus Christ received the mandate to send Ananias to Saul.
His prayer was answered even while he was praying. Before we call He is ready and waiting to answer.
What a beautiful prayer that was!
O, I know that in Paul’s epistles we can find prayers that appear to us to be much more beautiful. I am thinking of this one: “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout the ages, world without end. Amen.”
But actually the angels rejoiced in heaven when they saw Saul in Damascus groping in blindness and praying incessantly.
And Christ said to God, and in turn to Ananias: “Behold, he prayeth.”
That’s enough. Even more than enough for me.
Prayer is coming to God, believing that He is, humbling ourselves before Him, pouring out our souls in sorrow and contrition, clinging in faith to Christ, with a boldness that knows that we shall be heard.
Prayer is all that. But even more, it is fellowship with God, experiencing His smile of approval flooding our hearts with peace and joy, joy unspeakable and full of glory.