Today we will look at a powerful prayer in the book of Acts. It can be read in its entirety in Acts 4:23-31
In the first half of chapter 4, we read that Peter and John were preaching the gospel and performing great miracles when they were brought before the Sanhedrin and threatened to stop teaching and healing in the name of Jesus. The Sanhedrin wanted to go beyond just threatening Peter and John but they did not, because the people were praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had witnessed. So, they were given a stern warning and let go.
Acts 4:23-24a “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”
What did Peter and John do as soon as they were released?
- Turned to God – The crowds at the time around them showed a lot of support for what they were teaching and doing. After they were let go, did Peter and John step out and give a rousing speech to stir everyone’s anger towards the priests. No, they did not rely on people’s support or popularity to stand strong in the face of a threat. They turned to God. They knew that the opposition came from the enemy and they needed the power of God behind them as they stood for the truth. The strongest weapon against the fiery arrows from the enemy is prayer.
- Our response – How do we respond in the face of fear or a threat – we might not exactly relate to the kind of threat to life like they had. But what if we looked at the kind of threats we face. Sharing our view of what we believe and stand for does not necessarily always translate well with others. We can be looked upon as narrow minded, non-inclusive or a religious fanatic.
Places of work have become quite hostile to any expression of faith. A friend who works in a hospital, had a moment of prayer with a family whose kid was heading into surgery. The family were Christians and they were more than happy to turn to prayer at a time when their anxiety was getting the better of them. No one was forced or coerced into prayer. This was just a private moment between the two parties. But some other staff member reported this and my friend was pulled up and given a warning.
Even though we might not face imminent threat to our life, there is definitely a threat to freedom of expression of our faith, all in the name of inclusivity and equality.
May we seek the Lord in prayer for wisdom, guidance, discernment and boldness when our faith is questioned and may our response always be grounded in His truth, filled with His love and purposed to bring Him glory.
- 3. Went back to their own people – Peter and John turned to their community of believers for encouragement, strength and prayer. There is power in fellowship and corporate prayer.
- 4. Raised their voices together – They did not raise their voices in anger, frustration or as a result of humiliation.
They raised their voice in the best possible way – in prayer.
They raise their voices in the most powerful way – in prayer.
They raise their voices in the most effective way – with unity in prayer.
Let me emphasise one thing here. I share the importance of prayer but I also would like to say that many a times we pray but do not follow it with actions where needed to stand for our faith or what is right. I share this in light of the news we read about racial discrimination. I do believe that we have to not remain silent and stand up for that which is right but I reiterate the importance of turning to God for wisdom, discernment, boldness and guidance to go about all of this in the most powerful and effective way. May we follow the lead of the apostles here who prayed for God to empower them and enable them to go forth and do what they must so that whatever they did it was not in their own strength but fuelled with the power of God.
Acts 4:24a -28 “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:“‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”
How did they pray?
- Their prayer was God – focused. Their prayer was not embellished with the enormity of their problem, instead it was inundated with who God is and the power of God.
- How did they address God – Sovereign Lord – They start with acknowledging that God is the creator of everything. Ensuring that their focus stayed on the mightiness, supremacy and sovereignty of God.
However big our problem or opposition is, God is bigger and very much in control.
- 3. They remind themselves that great works are accomplished and great words are spoken not by human skill but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- 4. When they speak of King David as the servant of God and their father, they acknowledge their oneness with King David by calling him father. And at the same time calling him as God’s servant – they acknowledge their position to God and their purpose of being in service for His kingdom.
- 5. Their prayer is scriptural – they based their faith and prayer on the word of God. They quote scripture, Psalm 2:1-2 to be precise. They remind themselves of the futility of going against the Lord. That those who stand against God’s anointed are standing against God himself. That momentary wins against HIM are nothing but just the plans of God being accomplished. Emphasising that God is in control then and now.
Acts 4:29-30 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
What did they ask for in their Prayer?
- Healing and
- Miraculous signs and wonders, all through the name of Jesus.
Do we read an emphasis in their request on deliverance from the issue or instead do we see them asking for the strength, courage, power to glorify God and spread His word through this trial?
Wow! I wish I could say I always approach challenges this way. I tend to usually pray to get out of the situation as soon as possible and after much wallowing in misery I come around to asking God to help me learn what He intends for me in that trial.
And all of it they ask through the name of Jesus – all that they asked for was so that the name of Jesus will be known and glorified. Not for their glory or for them to have an easy life.
I share a quote by Guzik, “Their boldness was a gift from God, received through prayer. It was not something that they tried to work up in themselves.”
They asked God to consider the threats and in accordance give them what was needed to stand firm in the face of those threats. Philip Brooks wrote “Don’t just pray for an easy life, pray for God to make you stronger! Don’t pray for tasks equal to your power, but for power equal to your tasks!”
I don’t think it is wrong to ask God to take away a difficult situation. I am reminded of how Jesus himself prayed before his crucifixion for the cup to be taken away from Him if it was possible and goes on to pray that if it is not, let God’s will be done. We get to see the human side of Jesus here in these words. But Jesus was committed to the will of God and the same should be so for us.
Acts 4:31 “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
What did they receive in response to their prayer?
An outpouring of the Spirit.
Whatever we have weighing heavily on our heart, take it to God in prayer. There is strength to be found, comfort to be felt, peace to be experienced and power to equip and enable when we spend time on our knees, raising our voices in prayer.