The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Acts 10:4
Cornelius was “God fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (verse 2), but he wasn’t a Jew. Yet he managed to get heaven’s attention because he had a right heart attitude. Peter wouldn’t have thought this was possible. He didn’t think a Jewish person should even visit a non-Jewish person (verse 28). Even after spending three years with Jesus, Peter still didn’t understand the universal nature of the gospel.
God sent Cornelius a preacher, perhaps not a particularly willing one, but a preacher nonetheless. Peter didn’t even know what he was supposed to say (verse 29) while Cornelius expected that Peter would be fully informed: “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us” (verse 33). Cornelius had an expectant, open heart to hear from God, so God made sure he had the opportunity to hear.
Two things strike me about this incident. Firstly God’s desire to have people in right relationship with himself. God saw Cornelius’ heart and sent someone who could explain Jesus’ life and death to him. If people are open and honest toward God, God will show up. He has planted eternity in people’s heart (Ecclesiastics 3:11) so that they will seek him and if they seek him, God will use whatever possible means so they find him.
Secondly, we are sometimes like Peter, a bit slow to realize what God is doing and not sure what we are supposed to say. But as we look to God, he will provide us with the understanding (“I now realise …”) and with the words to say.