“Acts 4” Prayer
By Brenda Kuseski
In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala discusses the events that faced the infant church in Jerusalem:
…The early Christians began dynamically in power. They were unified, prayerful, filled with the Holy Spirit, going out to do God’s work in God’s way, and seeing results that glorified Him. The hour seemed golden. This was truly the church overcoming the gates of hell, as Jesus described. [But after the healing of the lame man, they Peter and John were arrested by the religious leaders.]
A surprise awaited the Jewish leaders, however. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (4:13). …The apostles were released on the condition that they not speak further in the name of Jesus. How did they respond? What did they do?
They didn’t petition the government. They didn’t wring their hands about how unfair this was. They didn’t complain about losing their freedom of speech, although they could have made a solid case that the Roman Empire, with its panoply of other gods, shouldn’t mind their speaking about Jesus.
The apostles could have done any number of things to sway public opinion. But to their minds this was not a political problem—it was spiritual. They quickly joined a meeting of the believers and began to pray. They immediately turned to their power source. This is how they prayed:
Sovereign Lord,…you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them….Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch our your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24, 29-30)
… This is the only prayer longer than a sentence or two that is quoted in the entire book of Acts. No doubt it is only a summary of what the group prayed in a variety of words that day. Yet it offers a unique glimpse at the prayer life of the early church….Isn’t it strange that they prayed for boldness? We might have expected them to pray, “Lord, help us find a safe shelter now. We need to lie low for a few weeks until the heat goes away. We’ll stay out of sight, and if you could just make the Sanhedrin sort of forget about us…” Not at all! If anything, they prayed against backing down. They asked God to help them press on. Retreat was the farthest thing from their minds. And how did God react?
“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” (4:31)
This is precisely what the prophets, down through the centuries, had told them to do: When under attack, when facing a new challenge, in all seasons, in all times, call on the name of the Lord, and He will help you. [adapted]