Why Pray? 5: For the salvation of those who oppose you

“…I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:29)

Not the best choice of words if Paul was trying to get out of trouble.

Paul’s speech to his accusers caused King Agrippa to query whether Paul was trying to convert him there and then, and this is what Paul said in reply. Far from backing off or trying to appease Agrippa’s sensitivities Paul tells him what he wants and prays for: the salvation of everyone in the room.

Paul was speaking to a room of people opposed to all he stood for.We don’t know that everyone in that room even disliked Paul, but they were all part of a process where justice was abused for money and politics. For a man consumed with the a commitment to the spread of the gospel to all parts of the known world Paul’s incarceration would most naturally have been infuriating to him. And yet he does not seem in the least frustrated, seizing instead on the opportunity to share the gospel with powerful figures.

With the Jews baying for his blood, Paul’s defence to Agrippa that day was not a defence of Paul the unjustly accused, or an attempt to score points against spiritually and intellectually bankrupt opposition. His speech, as his life, was an all-out effort to show the gospel in all its glorious and compelling truth. He was not trying to argue or debate his way out of custody but bring glory to God through bringing Agrippa to repentance and faith.

Many cynical people today say along with Agrippa that we are mad (v.24), or arrogant in our desire to convince people of the truth of Christ (v.28). Our instinct in those situations often will be to justify ourselves, to try and come out well from the conversation, to not be thought stupid or rude, or to agree to differ and move on. We don’t want to make people uncomfortable either with us or with the situation.

Paul did not want people to be made needlessly uncomfortable or offended – he knew the cross would offend them. He wanted everyone in the room to be saved and he wanted them to know that was what he wanted and was praying for. In doing so he knowingly lay himself open to being thought even more “insane” than before.

Do you really want people to know that you pray for their salvation? That your keenest desire for them is that they come to know Christ? Are you comfortable with the idea of telling them?

Ask God to show you what is your heart in the face of cynical opposition. Ask him for less of you and more of him. For a heart that says to those who oppose Christ, I don’t care what you think of me, I just want you in heaven with me.

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