“Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me.”
“I was praying at the time of prayer. At 3pm.”
This was not coincidence that Cornelius is praying at the time of prayer.
3pm is Minchah. It means gift, offering, sacrifice, it is the 3pm prayer time and in every case it involved a sacrificial animal.
But he was in his house, so the only thing that was being sacrificed was himself.
He came on bended knee. He prayed in surrender. He wasn’t a Jew but this was how prayers should be prayed and perhaps he did this even more sincerely than those who did Minchah dutifully.. The prayers of Minchah are
Ashrei: based on Psalm 145, it does not ask God for anything, it is purely praise of Him.
Uvn letzion: a prayer which contains the all-important call for the Redeemer to come to Israel.
Amidah: this consists of 19 prayers for God to bless His people.
Tachanun: which was a personal appeal to God from the person praying.
Tzidkatcha: it uses verses like Psalm 71:19 “Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?”
Alienu: this prayer uses these words, “He is our God; there is no other. Truly He is our King, there is none else”
Cornelius did all the above, he prayed the Minchah, the afternoon prayer. Then suddenly God came …
Knowing this helps us understand that Cornelius was entering into a surrendering of his heart to a God he didn’t really know. He was not one of His people but he was laying his life down as he did probably most afternoons.
Suddenlies happen in these contexts.