“As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?’” Acts 9:3-4 (NLT)
Suddenly a light from heaven shone on Saul, and changed everything. Saul was a religious leader, zealous for God, doing what he thought he was supposed to do for God. He was on a mission to Damascus to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem “in chains” all those who were followers of Jesus! Then suddenly all that changed. Suddenly, this man who was fighting against Jesus changed his trajectory and began a journey that would thrust the early church forward, even impacting us today.
As I have been marinating in the scriptures around the word “suddenly” I have discovered that nearly every suddenly has a “as he” component. Every suddenly is not as random as it looks. Suddenlies happen in result of other things such as prayer, obedience, etc. Later when Saul is Paul and is in jail with Silas they are worshipping loudly at midnight and “suddenly” there is an earthquake that opened their doors and loosened their chains. That suddenly is a direct result of their worshipping and praying in the darkness of their jail cell.
Likewise, this suddenly where Saul meets Jesus, has a back story. In Acts 7 we find Stephen being stoned to death by the religious leaders. As Stephen breathes his last breath, he cries out to the Father, just as Jesus had done on the cross! It says…
“He crumpled to his knees and shouted in a loud voice, ‘Our Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.’ And then he died.” Acts 7:60 (TPT)
I believe Saul had the Damascus road encounter because Stephen had prayed for him. Acts 8:1 says that “Saul was there, giving approval to his death” (NIV). Stephen’s prayer for those who were killing him released a grace for Saul to meet Jesus. This gives us some strategies regarding praying for Saul encounters for others in our city!
There are folks in our city today who are meant to be champions in the coming revival. Some of these don’t even know Jesus yet. Some are actively working against Him right now. There are some in the religious world who think they are fighting for God who are like Saul, deceived and actually opposing Him.
So today, let’s begin praying for the Saul’s in Athens, starting with those in the church who are fighting against Jesus. Pray for those in leadership in your denomination who are promoting Critical Race Theory, or fighting for a place for the LGBTQ agenda in the church. Pray that those who are supporting anything or any person that is fighting for abortion or planned parenthood, to encounter Jesus. Pray that God would not hold their sin against them. Ask God for a grace over them to encounter Jesus. Pray for our secular leaders, the Cornelius’ and Naaman’s who encountered the Lord. Pray for the drug dealers, the gang leaders, and the “men of peace” (Luke 10:6) in each neighborhood who will be instrumental in ushering the kingdom of God into their spheres.
Pray for our mayor, all the commissioners and school board members to have a face to face encounter with Jesus. Ask God to give them revelation and godly wisdom (Ephesians 1:17). And pray for your pastor and church to be ready to bring these converted Saul’s into fellowship.