day 18

On a weekend at our alma mater, my husband and I ate at a wonderful new restaurant in Auburn. It's called Acre and it is all about the farm-to-table experience. When we arrived, we were seated in an alcove decorated with clean white tablecloths and calm grey interior walls. The place was rustic yet chic. Looking at the menu, I was excited to dig in.

They are known for their shrimp and grits (which I ordered!) and their carrot cake bread pudding (y'all, it was sinfully good). Our waiter came, dressed in jeans and boots with a long Williams-Sonoma like apron pulled over his head and secured at his waist. He was young, probably an older college student, but the way he spoke about the food y'all made me believe he had been studying the art of food dictation for years. As he was sharing the night's specials, one part of the menu that he strongly encouraged us to try was the charcuterie.

The what?

A charcuterie (shahr-koo-tuh-ree) is the art of salting, smoking, brining, and curing of meats. We chose the pepperoni (trust me, it was not a bunch of bright red circles), along with the strawberry jam and goat cheese. They brought this out on a long wooden board, all cute and tiny, along with some bread. May I get a yum?

While I ate every bit of my food, the thing about that experience that most satisfied me was the thought that prayers are much like a charcuterie. Prayer is an art, something that takes time, patience, and skill. To truly enjoy the rich flavors of a relationship with God, we have to continually salt, smoke, brine, and cure our prayer time with him.

Just as our stomachs hunger for food, our souls hunger for God.

In his book, The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson says that we have to keep circling our prayers and sometimes prayers will never be answered in our lifetime. Other times, our lives will be an answered prayer from those that have gone before us and prayed. In Acts 10, there was this guy named Cornelius that lived in Caesarea. He was a Gentile, which meant he was not a Jew, one of God's chosen people. But Cornelius and his family were "God-fearing, gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly (Acts 10:2)." One day he had a vision where an angel of God told him to go get a man named Simon who was called Peter.  Meanwhile, Peter was also praying. Verse ten says that he became hungry and wanted something to eat. He fell into a trance and saw a large sheet being let down with all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter, Kill and eat (Acts 10:9-13)."

But Peter, being a Jew, did not eat anything impure or unclean. Then a voice said to him, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

At that time, Cornelius' men came and asked Peter to come with them. He went and when he arrived at Cornelius' house, he notices all the people that were there.  As he spoke, he realized the purpose of the vision he had experienced. Peter said, "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean (Acts 10:28)."

So he sat down with Cornelius and all the Gentiles and heard about Cornelius' vision. He realized that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. As he was speaking this truth about God, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.

Friends, do you see the hugeness of this moment? Mark Batterson says, "If you are not Jewish, your spiritual genealogy traces back to this moment." Because Cornelius prayed and believed all those years ago, we are able to receive the gift of being Christ followers filled with the Holy Spirit.

I don't know what prayer you have been circling these past eighteen days. This Thursday, we will end our 21 Day Prayer Challenge but might I urge you to continue to pray? Even if your prayer hasn't been answered in 21 days doesn't mean that it won't ever be answered. Just like in the story of Cornelius and Peter, your prayer could be waiting on someone else's obedience. God hears the cry of your heart and don't become disheartened if you don't receive an immediate answer. Keep praying and think long. Because just like a charcuterie, prayer is an art.

If you'd like to learn more about our New Year's Prayer Challenge, you can read this post about joining us for the next 21 Days.
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Want to go deeper?
                                • Complete the weekly prayer challenge sent to you by e-mail
                                • Read Chapters 8-11 this week in The Circle Maker
                                • Follow along with the New Start 15 Bible Reading Plan.
                                • Listen to today's song from our playlist as you circle your prayers