Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name. – Acts 9:13-14 ESV
Ananias was a disciple of Jesus living in the city of Damascus. One particular morning, he received a vision from God, who told him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight” (Acts 9:11-12 ESV). Now you would have thought that Ananias, having just received a direct command from God, would have immediately done what he had been told to do. But instead, Ananias expressed his surprise and apprehension at the news he had just heard. God was asking him to go and visit a religious vigilante, someone who had hired himself out to the high priest and rulers on the Jews as a kind of spiritual bounty hunter, rounding up Christians and throwing them in jail. Saul had been at the stoning of Stephen and he was now taking part in an organized persecution of the church. “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3 ESV). And he was on his way to Damascus. “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1 ESV).
So when Ananias, a resident of Damascus received word from God that Saul was in their town and that he was to go and heal him from his blindness, he was more than a bit surprised. News of Saul had spread. He had a less-than-angelic reputation and Ananias couldn’t figure out why God would command him to assist this man in any way. If he was blind, why not leave him that way? Surely, he deserved it. He was pure evil. He was arresting innocent believers and throwing them in jail. He was working for the enemy. Why should he be helped in any way?
Ananias’ simple prayer expressed his consternation and confusion. It all made no sense to him. But a big part of his problem was that he didn’t know the whole story. He was completely unaware of what had happened to Saul as he was on his way to Damascus. Ananias didn’t know that Saul had also had a divine encounter, but with Jesus Himself. As Saul made his way to Damascus with the intention of arresting believers, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Him. Left physically blind as a result of his meeting with the Savior, Saul had made his way to Damascus as he had been instructed, and had spent three days neither eating or drinking, waiting for further instructions. Ananias knew nothing about any of this. All God had told him was to go to the street called Straight and to heal Saul of blindness. Which led to Ananias’ prayer.
So much of the time our prayers are based on scant information. We pray out of ignorance. And that’s not necessarily wrong. But we must learn to accept the reality that we don’t always have all the facts. Like Ananias, we can end up praying based on little or no information. We jump to conclusions. We conjure up scenarios and consequences. But we don’t know what God is doing behind the scenes. Ananias had heard rumors about Saul. He knew him to be an evil man who had done very bad things. So it wasn’t hard for Ananias to conclude that any dealings with Saul would be dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. But what Ananias didn’t know was what God had in store for Saul. He didn’t take into account God’s sovereign will. Yes, Saul was powerful and had been backed by the high priest, but God was more powerful. He could handle Saul. In fact, when God heard the prayer of Ananias, He simply responded, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16 ESV). He told Ananias to stop praying and to be obedient. Just go! Trust me!
When we pray, we must always take into account what we don’t know. We must also never forget what God does know: everything. So often, our prayers are little more than out attempt to tell God what we think He doesn’t know. We spend a great deal of time sharing news of which we think He is unaware. We spend a great deal of time trying to inform the all-knowing God. But we might be better off asking God to reveal to us what we don’t know. It might serve us better to ask God to open our eyes and help us to see His hand at work in our circumstances. Ananias attempted to bring God up to speed about Saul. But what he didn’t realize was that God was well aware of who Saul was and all that he had done. But God also knew what He was going to do with Saul – something neither Saul or Ananias were aware of. They didn’t know the rest of the story. But God did. Our prayers must always take into account the fulness of God’s plan. He is never at a loss as to what to do. He is never ignorant of the facts. Men like Saul don’t scare or surprise Him. The situations we face don’t catch Him off guard. Prayer is less an opportunity for us to tell God all that we know than it is a chance to learn from God all that He is doing. We should seek to know the rest of the story.