Acts on Prayer – The Macedonian Call

Acts 16:7-9

(7)  After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

(8)  And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

(9)  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

While this is commonly known as the Macedonian call, it didn’t happen without some Macedonians praying. It’s how missionaries get to the mission field:

Matthew 9:38 “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Paul, now partnered with Silas, was on his second missionary journey. The main goal of this trip was to follow up on the churches started during his first missionary journey, but that did not mean Paul was not open to starting new works as he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, they were determined to head into Bithynia in Asia when the Lord prevented them. Paul may have wondered why that was until he received the call to go into Macedonia. The Bible says “there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.”

That word “pray” is not the same word used when praying to God. Here, the word “pray” comes from the Greek word parakaleō, which means “to call near,” or “invite.” The word usually translated “prayer” when it refers to God is proseuchomai (pros-yoo’-khom-eye), or one of its derivatives, meaning “to pray,” “supplicate,” or “worship.” The New Testament is always very clear about not worshipping people, and only worshipping God.

This call leads up to the conversion of a woman named Lydia. Like the Roman centurion, Cornelius, she was a Gentile, a proselyte to Judaism, and one who was truly seeking God. Scripture tells us she was a “seller of purple.” It’s only mentioned in passing, but it implies that she was most likely a wealthy businesswoman. The purple dye used to make the material she sold was hard to come by, obtained from a kind of shellfish, and very expensive. The purple cloth she sold went to high-end buyers.

The Bible also tells us that she “worshipped God.” “Worship” comes from the Greek word sebomai, meaning to “revere,” or “adore.” So she also had this in common with Cornelius. Most importantly, we are told that Lydia was one “whose heart the Lord opened” and that she was baptized (Acts 16:14-15). Baptism does not save, but in that time and culture, being baptized meant you were publicly identifying with Christ. It had much more meaning back then – and in some countries today, being baptized to acknowledge your faith in Christ can mean being disowned by family and threatened with death. Given Lydia’s standing in the community as a wealthy and powerful woman, her baptism was a bold statement.

But where did Paul and Silas find this woman and what does all this have to do with prayer? Verse 13 of this chapter says that the missionaries found this woman in a place “where prayer was wont to be made.” Again, like Cornelius, Lydia was a person of prayer who eagerly sought God and God rewarded her seeking with more of Himself: grace for grace.

What makes Lydia unique, and unlike Cornelius, is that she is the first recorded European to be converted in Europe. (Cornelius was Italian, but he was in the Holy Land at the time of his conversion.) Regardless of where she was converted, Lydia is proof again that it does not matter who you are, or where you are in the world, if you will draw near to God, He will draw near to you. All we have to do is pray.

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