Praying for Church Planting through the Book of Acts
After his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) and the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). Paul once again left for another missionary journey. He returned to the cities of Derbe and Lystra. On his previous journey he had led many to the Lord in both places (14:20-22). This time he met a young man who would become his chief protege: Timothy. His mother was Jewish and his Father was Greek. He had a great reputation. But, he was also uncircumcised. Considering the decision of the apostles in Acts 15, why would this be an issue? It was already decided that the Mosaic Law was not necessary for salvation. Paul circumcises Timothy because "of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek" (16:3). Paul would be the first to declare that circumcision would be unnecessary for salvation. But, he also knew that not all the Jews believed in the Messiah who perfectly fulfilled the Law on our behalf. In order to reach them with the gospel he knew that he would need to "flex". Circumcision wasn't essential, but it does give Paul and Timothy credibility with their audience. The result? Paul and Timothy travel through the area delivering the news of the apostle's decision and "the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily" (16:5). So, we pray for wise flexibility that leads to salvation and discipleship.
From there Paul intended to go West into the region of Asia but was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia" (16:6). Instead, they would go North and East into Phrygia and Galatia. From there they would move West along the Northern region (Near the Black Sea and modern day Istanbul, Turkey). Intending to move North into the region of Bythinia, "the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them" (16:7). So, they continued West along the borders of Asia and Bythinia until they came to the city of Troas situated on the Aegean Sea. That night Paul has a vision of a "man of Macedonia" urging them to come. Paul's plan immediately changed "concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them" (16:10). We're not told how exactly the Holy Spirit forbade Paul from entering these three places. But, we do know that this is often how God leads us: through opportunity and lack thereof. So we pray for this kind of Holy Spirit guidance. For every two closed doors, we ask for open great open opportunity.