Prayer and Open Doors

Bible Book: Acts  10
Subject: Prayer
Series: It Was Just A Prayer Meeting
[Editor's Note: This is part 9 in a 14 part series on prayer. All sermons in this series use the KJV of the Bible.]

In Acts we find the accounts of 2 men praying, one possibly seeking salvation and one possibly seeking souls. Then as the story progresses we find that a third person is involved, the mediator that links the two prayers. The Holy Spirit brings the 2 prayers together and shows us the importance of taking advantage of open doors.

It is one thing for man to seek God to open doors of opportunity and altogether more for us to take advantage of those open doors. It is noteworthy if God closes a door, but even greater if God opens a door. The book of Acts was primarily written so that we can see how God brings the gentiles into the family.


A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokies built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member. Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building. Until the church doubled the size of the parking lot, they would not be able to use the new sanctuary. Unfortunately, the church with its undersized parking lot had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain out of the back yard.


Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had "mountain moving faith." They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service the following week.

At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation's 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours. At ten o'clock the pastor said the final "Amen." "We'll open next Sunday as scheduled," he assured everyone. "God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too."The next morning, as he was working in his study, there came a loud knock at the pastor's door. When he called, "Come in," a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered.

"Excuse me, Reverend. I'm from Acme Construction Company over in the next county. We're building a huge new shopping mall over there and we need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We'll pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge, if we can have it right away. We can't do anything else until we get the dirt in and allow it to settle properly."

The little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned and there were far more members with "mountain moving faith" on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week!

I. One Seeking Salvation

A. Cornelius the Centurion

Acts 10:1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian [band],

Cornelius was a centurion that headed up a group made up mostly of Italians. The group was probably about 1000 men in total according to Jewish historian Josephus.

B. Cornelius the Chaser

Acts 10:2 [A] devout [man], and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

Cornelius was definitely a Jew, but we really don’t know if he had any deeper affiliation with the Jewish faith. It is certain that he knew about God, the teachings of the Jewish faith but we have no record that he was a Jewish Proselyte.

1. Righteous Proselyte

A Gentile that had fully converted to the Jewish faith and Judaism were bound to all doctrines and precepts of the Jewish economy. They were considered full members of the Jewish people and would be circumcised, then follow all Jewish rites to be able to partake in the Passover.

2. Gate Proselyte

A gate proselyte was a "resident alien" who lived in the Land of Israel and followed some of the customs. They were not required to be circumcised nor to comply with the whole of the Torah. They were bound only to conform to the seven precepts of Noah, the Noahide Laws: do not worship idols, do not blaspheme God's name, do not murder, do not commit immoral sexual Actss, do not steal, do not tear the limb from a living animal, and do not fail to establish courts of justice. (Wikipedia)

C. Cornelius the Concerned

Acts 10:3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.

Acts 10:4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

God sent an Angel to speak to Cornelius as he was spending time in prayer. This caused him to be afraid, but the angel offered Cornelius words of comfort and instruction.

D. Cornelius the Compelled

Acts 10:5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for [one] Simon, whose surname is Peter:

Acts 10:6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

Cornelius was about 30 miles from Joppa, but that is where he is instructed to send some of his men. Upon visiting Joppa the men were to find Peter whom was lodging with Simon the tanner. The angel instructed Cornelius that Peter would tell him what to do; this would require faith on the part of Cornelius. True faith has to trust God and launch out into the deep. It is not faith if you can do it yourself or have it in your hand; true faith has to fully trust God’s guidance.

E. Cornelius the Committed

Acts 10:7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;

Acts 10:8 And when he had declared all [these] things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

It is comforting to see the commitment that Cornelius has in obeying his instructions. The centurion wasted no time in obeying his orders from God.

As the story unfolds we see that God is working on both ends of the spectrum. On one hand he is speaking to Cornelius and on the other hand he is working on Peter. It would be to our benefit to realize that God has a divine plan and he can work on both ends.

Cornelius sent 3 men to find Peter, 2 were his most trusted household servants and the other was one of his most devout soldiers. We should not take obeying God lightly, in seeking his will we should give it our best shot.


A pastor was visiting a family one day. He knocked on the door but no one answered it. He knocked again and again, but still no answer. He thought he heard someone inside but they just wouldn’t answer the door. Finally he wrote a note and slipped it under the door. It was Rev.3:20: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in.” Four days later he received a note in the mail and it was Genesis 3:10: “I heard the sound of thee in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.”

II. One Seeking Sinners

A. The Place of his Prayer

Acts 10:9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:

1. Joppa

The men go to Joppa, which is known historically as the jumping of place of Jonah. The prophet Jonah had orders from God to take his message to gentiles hundreds of years earlier. As we know Jonah refused to go to Nineveh with Gods message, he chose to flee down to Joppa and boarded a ship to Tarshish. It is funny how we often find history repeating itself and we see it many times in the bible, with various people.

Now hundreds of years later God is going to send his Gospel message to a man in Joppa and this message is again for people of Gentile descent. God seems to have a great sense of humor. Now we will see that Peter has the same option as Jonah, so let’s see how the story unfolds.

2. Rooftop

Peter is now praying upon the rooftop of Simon the tanner’s house. The rooftop would be a quiet place and nice place of separation and solitude. We need to have a place of prayer so that we can still away and talk to God. It was a wide place and nothing would stand between Peter and his God.

3. Sixth Hour

The Jews had 3 primary times of prayer. The 3rd hour which was 9 a.m., the 6th hour which was 12 p.m, and the 9th hour which was 3 p.m.

Acts 3:1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, [being] the ninth [hour].

Acts 2:15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is [but] the third hour of the day.

Psalms 55:17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

The Jews had these 3 primary times of prayer and it carried over into the prayer diet of the early Christians. It would be good for us to have set strict times of prayer. How many of us shun prayer due to the Acts that we fail to make time to do it. In Acts we see that God blesses prayer and honors those that allow the proper time to do it.

B. The Pause of his Prayer

1. The Vision

Acts 10:10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,

In praying Peter became hungry, but the people were still preparing the food, so he kept on praying. We really don’t know what he was praying, but God was about to work mightily through his faithfulness. It was the 6th hour and maybe Peter remembered it was the 6th hour when Jesus died upon the cross.

Mathew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

Luke 23:44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

I wonder if Peter was remembering how horrible it was to see Jesus suffering on Calvary for those 3 hours. He may have been begging God to save more lost souls, and upon hearing his request God is going to answer it mightily.

It could be that God revealed to Peter that he had a much different plan as he tried to teach Peter in John chapter 4. Peter was hungry but God was going to appease his appetite with much greater satisfaction.

John 4:31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.

John 4:32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

John 4:33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him [ought] to eat?

John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

John 4:35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and [then] cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

I wonder how many of us have a vision for seeing the lost saved; in this passage Peter has a heavenly vision. This vision would change the life of Peter and the church forever. We should understand that we are in the life changing business and soul seeking business,

2. The Vessel

Acts 10:11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:

Acts 10:12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

The vision displayed a vessel descending from heaven and it was filled with many unclean types of food. This would have been food that was off limits to a committed Jew.

Leviticus 11:41 And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth [shall be] an abomination; it shall not be eaten.

Leviticus 11:42 Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon [all] four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they [are] an abomination.

Leviticus 11:43 Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.

Leviticus 11:44 For I [am] the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I [am] holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

3. The Voice

Acts 10:13 .And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

4. The Verbiage

Acts 10:14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.

5. The Victor

Acts 10:15 And the voice [spake] unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, [that] call not thou common.

Acts 10:16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

God was done debating this command with Peter. It was now up too Peter to obey or to do as Jonah had done many years earlier. God was in the process of opening mighty doors for the sake of the gospel and it would hinge upon the obedience of one of his disciples.

God had distinctly chosen Peter to initiate the fulfillment of this mighty task. I wonder if we fully realize the ins and outs of Gods will in our lives. God may be opening doors for the sake of the gospel in our lives but we must keenly seek his will and guidance for our lives. I was reading illustrations on how God opens doors for Christians and came across this interesting story from the life of Harry Houdini, I think you will find this illustration very helpful.

Harry Houdini, the famed escape artist issued a challenge wherever he went. He could be locked in any jail cell in the country, he claimed, and set himself free quickly and easily. Always he kept his promise, but one time something went wrong. Houdini entered the jail in his street clothes; the heavy, metal doors clanged shut behind him.

He took from his belt a concealed piece of metal, strong and flexible. He set to work immediately, but something seemed to be unusual about this lock. For 30 minutes he worked and got nowhere. An hour passed, and still he had not opened the door. By now he was bathed in sweat and panting in exasperation, but he still could not pick the lock.

Finally, after laboring for 2 hours, Harry Houdini collapsed in frustration and failure against the door he could not unlock. But when he fell against the door, it swung open! It had never been locked at all! But in his mind it was locked and that was all it took to keep him from opening the door and walking out of the jail cell.

III. One Seeking Singularity

The Holy Spirit is about to link the prayers of Cornelius with the prayers of Peter. In Acts 2 Peter opened the door of faith to the Jews. In Actss 8 he opened the door of faith to the Samaritans, and here in Actss 10 he is opening it to the Gentiles.

Acts 10:17 .Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,

Acts 10:18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.

Acts 10:19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.

Acts 10:20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

In verse 17 we see that Peter is filled with doubt about this vision and its intent. The Jew in him is rising up and telling him this could not be the will of God, but he must rely upon the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In verse 20 we see the linking of Peter’s prayer and the prayer of Cornelius, God tells Peter to make no difference or to doubt nothing. The Lord has a divine plan and he is going to now extend the gospel fully to the Gentiles.

A. No Difference in the Need

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

B. No Difference in the Method

The method was still, “go”, Peter had to travel 30 miles to share the Gospel with Cornelius and his household. This fActs has never changed and it will not change until the Lord comes back for his church.

Acts 10:20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

The Gospel method is still “arise and go”!!!

C. No Difference in the Message

Acts 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

D. No Difference in the Results

Acts 11:12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:

Acts 11:13 And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;

Acts 11:14 .Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.

Acts 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.

Peter tells the other disciples that Cornelius and his household got saved the very same way that they all had gotten saved. The results are the same, they always will be the same.

The result of the salvation of Cornelius was prayer, the prayer of Cornelius and the obedience of Peter. The link to this happening was the open door that God had created, the open door that Cornelius sought and the open door that Peter walked through.

1 Titus 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men;

Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.