Message: In Acts 19 there is so much going on that it was hard to zone in on one thought. Paul introduced some disciples to the Holy Spirit by filling in the gaps in their teaching and then baptizing them in the Holy Spirit. He continued to meet with them over two years and the Holy Spirit worked through Paul in extraordinary miracles, healings, signs and wonders. It must have seemed like a magic formula to a group of seven men who were Jewish exorcists and the sons of a priest named Sceva. They tried to cast out demons “in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches”. This didn’t go well for them because the demons recognized that they had no relationship and therefore no authority over them to use the name of Jesus so through the possessed man they leapt on them and they were chased off beaten and naked. I can’t imagine what kind of craziness happened in this encounter because remember, there was only one possessed man and there were seven men trying to cast out the demons. Those demons beat up and sent SEVEN men running naked through ONE man! What really caught my attention through this reading was that Paul was not elevating himself through these miracles and he wasn’t teaching that these miracles were exclusive through him only. He had a real relationship with Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit and he was discipling others to do the very same thing. This is not a relationship that can be faked or impersonated though. The seven sons of Sceva knew God, but because they didn’t have a relationship with Jesus and were not baptized in the Holy Spirit they didn’t have a share in his authority. They didn’t have a right to speak on behalf of Jesus. I think about this often when people ask me to pray for them. I absolutely believe in praying for other people, but I recognize sometimes when people are aware that they are not walking in relationship with God themselves. They want others to pray on their behalf because they recognize that there is an authority that comes only in relationship. Even though we all know that everyone is invited into relationship with Jesus, not everyone has accepted the invite. Many people know God, but not everyone has a relationship that carries the authority needed to pray for their situations. I’m always happy to pray for people, but I try to remind fellow believers that their prayers have the same impact as mine or any other believer’s, and that they are even more powerful when we come together. This reading reminds me of the importance of making sure that when I am praying for other people, that I also check on the status of their own relationship with Jesus. Do they know OF him or are they in relationship WITH him. What a shame it would be to pray for their situation without also making sure they know they are invited in to have their own relationship with Jesus.