Lydia's Prayer by Rocky Fleming
“And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Acts 16:13-14 (ESV)
I would like to propose a possibility, and in fact, I think it is a great possibility for it concerns answered prayer. Before I get to that I’d like to give some background on Lydia. First, she was from Thyatira, but she lived in Philippi. Lydia was a businesswoman and that is likely why she lived in Philippi, for she was a seller of purple goods. Lydia became successful in the purple trade. The purple dyes were extracted from certain mollusks, plants and insects in the area and were used for luxury cosmetics and clothing. Her husband was not mentioned, so we don’t know much about her personal life. But we do know she was religious, and she believed in prayer.
She was not Jewish by birth, but she worshipped the God of Israel and met by the riverside with other women to pray. It was there that Paul, Luke, Timothy and Silas met her. We read that she readily received the Gospel and was baptized, along with her whole household. Her house would be used to host the missionaries that taught her how to be saved. It is said that Lydia’s sizable residence would become the new headquarters of the new Christian congregation. In fact, she would become a leader there. Now to the possibility that I want to present. But I want to reference another passage in the same chapter, for I think they are connected.
“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Acts 16:6-10 (ESV)
As we read this passage, we see that Paul and his team were forbidden to go into Asia and Bithynia by the Holy Spirit. Why? No one knows, but one can guess. A good guess is that the Spirit had another agenda for the men, one that very likely would be an answer to the prayers of those women in Macedonia; otherwise, of all the places to go in Macedonia, why would He direct them to Philippi? Why would they go to women at a riverside when the norm was to show up at a synagogue first? Another note is that Paul was given a vision of a man asking that they come to Macedonia. Are you like me in that you see a divine orchestration unfolding that is directed by the Spirit? The Spirit is connecting people who are praying for God’s help to people who would become an answer to those prayers.
Why would these women be praying? What do you think their request might be? Remember, Philippi is under Roman rule. It had been conquered by Octavian on his way to become Caesar Augustus. So, the city had a reputation of years of depravity and immorality, from one ruler to another and so on. Consider that these women could very well be like modern day women today, especially in this country, where they see the fabric of their home and family being broken down by a rapidly degenerating society.
Consider how powerless those women felt in a male society that saw them more as property than humans? What could they do in a society that made them feel politically controlled, undervalued and objectified? They did what needs to be done even today. They prayed. They gathered and prayed and asked and hoped for God to send an answer to their prayers. They did not know what the answer might be. They might have been hoping for a political messiah, for we know the Jews in Israel hoped that Jesus would be that person. People tend to look at only their immediate need and forget that God’s answer goes way beyond the obvious. But God had prepared Lydia for His answer, for He opened her heart up immediately and she knew that she had been given the keys to the Kingdom of God, rather than a political leader who would only make life a little easier for her. Is there a lesson here?
I bet you readers can connect the dots. It comes down to this one thing. Do we seek to be part of God’s kingdom and what He does in our life, or do we still hold out for Him to make our personal kingdom better? Are our prayers driven only for ourselves and our interests, or are they about His work and His plans and His ways? If we feel that God is there to serve us and only make our life better in the kingdom of this world, better think again. That line of thinking is contrary to the Gospel and the purpose of Jesus. He came to save us from the corrupt and fallen world that we live in, and to give us a better Kingdom to join. If we are willing to seek God and His Kingdom, and entrust those things that abuse us, much like Lydia and her household did, then we will very well see an intercession on our behalf that will go beyond our understanding.
Lydia is a hero in the Bible. Men and women alike can learn a lot from such an industrious, hardworking, and generous person as she. She is in the fabric of our faith and her inclusion in it became an answer for all Christians, for she is an example of how God loves to answer our prayers that build His kingdom.