Fifty Days of Prayer | Day 30

Praying for Church Planting through the Book of Acts

Having left Berea without Timothy and Silas Paul spent his time engaging with the people in the synagogue and observing the widespread idolatry. Acts 16-19 speak of Paul "reasoning" with those in the synagogue. It's the only time in this book that this word is used to describe his teaching ministry. He was teaching them about Christ is a systematic, persuasive way. Some of the Greek philosophers heard his teaching and wanted to hear more (17:19-20). So they brought him to the Aeropagus, the place were such presentations were made. Paul would give an impassioned speech that began with his new-found knowledge of the cultural idols. So we pray for Spirit-given discernment into the spiritual influences shaping our church plant's neighborhood.

Using the multiplicity of statues to his advantage Paul is able to engage his audience by making known "the unknown god" (17:22-23). He tells them that this God "made the world and everything in it" and that he is the "Lord of heaven and earth" so he "does not live in temples made by man" (17:24). This God is the source of all life (17:25) and humanity (17:26). He is patient, kind, and merciful (17:26). His desire is that all men would come to faith in him as he is close at all to all (17:26-27). In making his point he quotes two separate philosophers: Epimendies of Crete and Aratus. His speech culminates in a call to repentance and an affirmation of Christ's death and resurrection. These Greek philosophers would find the idea of resurrection to be foolish and so "some mocked" (17:32). Despite this vocal resistance there were still those who believed (17:34). So, we pray for the ability to "quote the prophets" of our target neighborhood, creating credibility, and proclaim the Gospel through it, leading to faith.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
— Acts 17:16-34