Today, being Sunday, I’ve been to church – Park Hill Evangelical Church. The sermon was from Acts 8 and how through persecution the news of Jesus Christ was spread far and wide. Because the Jews who believed had to leave Jerusalem they began spreading the word where they were at. So instead of curtailing what was to become known as the Christian belief the authorities were instrumental in propagating it.
The story of Simon the Magician and Peter the Apostle is paramount to an understanding of prayer, belief and forgiveness.
Simon the Magician had many tricks and illusions. He was admired by many. But when he saw the ‘workings’ of the Apostles he was in awe and wanted to be able to induce the Holy Spirit upon believers as they were doing, healing and baptising in the name of Jesus the Christ. He followed them around and then asked if he could pay them to give him the power of the Holy Spirit. What followed was a harsh but correct rebuke from Peter.
Simon had followed and professed to believe but had obviously not understood. He wanted the power of the Holy Spirit for his own aggrandisement. When Peter told him to repent of this attitude and pray to the Lord for forgiveness or he would be in trouble, Simon asked Peter to pray for him. Missing the mark yet again. We have to pray firstly for ourselves, for forgiveness, for help and for God’s grace to touch us in our belief in Jesus the Christ. No priest or individual can pray for us, asking us to be forgiven. We must pray for ourselves and they, the priest or the individual, can pray with us. They may even pray that we may begin to see the error of our ways, but the first step has to be ours. We have to be pursuing the word of God for Jesus' sake not our own aggrandisement or because it makes us seem powerful or good. It does not say in Acts whether Simon got it right in the end. I hope so because with all that was going on around him it would have been a tragedy if he did not absorb the truth and then understand the reality of how to become a believer and pray accordingly.
How true is this in today’s world when self-seeking ministers preach the word to get what they want, be it power, staus, wealth and or adoration. When preachers use vulgarity and locker-room humour to attract young people to their ministries because it’s the cool thing to do. When preachers forgo the the truth of the Holy Spirit as the way for people to come to understand prayer and God’s word. When sex and lust are overplayed and love and compassion are downplayed. When truth is substituted for popularity or cultural assimilation so that the preacher is seen as one of the boys or worst, one of the elite because he belongs to the right clubs and organisations.
These preachers find it hard to pray for forgiveness for themselves because they do not see anything wrong in their way of being. They will ask their ‘flock’ to pray for the church to expand, for the tithing to be bountiful, for the means to do their job, but they seldom ask for forgiveness because they cannot accept that they need to turn inwards and see they are doing what they do for their own self-gratification. We must pray for these preachers to repent, but most of all we must pray that they, like us, must pray their own prayer asking for forgiveness. Otherwise they, and we, will be like Simon the Magician, we will be rebuked and we will face the consequences if we do not get it right.
Thank you Derek Fortnam, Pastor of Park Hill Evangelical Church for that thought provoking message.