Today we are going to talk about the prayer for boldness. In my last post, Peter and John were released from the religious leaders for they could find no way to punish the apostles for healing the forty-year-old man. If you would like to read this blog post first on the embarrassment of the Jewish leaders click here: http://stepintothestory.ca/the-embarrassment-of-the-jewish-leaders/
The greatest concentration of power in Jerusalem that day was in the prayer meeting that followed the trial. This prayer meeting is one of the great prayers recorded in the Bible, and it is a good example for us to follow.
The prayer, to begin with, was a prayer that was born out of witness and service for the Lord. Peter and John had just come in “from the trenches,” and the church met to pray to defeat the enemy.
After their release the apostles went back to their friends and reported to them what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices to God in united prayer and said,
“Lord, you are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ’. For truly against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, by stretching out your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’
When they had prayed their meeting-place was shaken; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God fearlessly. ~ Acts 4:23-31 (PHILLIPS)
It was a united prayer meeting as they “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (see Acts 1:14). The people were of one heart and mind, and God was pleased to answer their requests. Division in the church always hinders prayer and robs the church of spiritual power.
Their praying was based solidly on the Word of God, in this case, Psalm 2. The Word of God and prayer must always go together. In His Word, God speaks to us and tells us what He wants to do. In prayer, we talk to him and make ourselves available to accomplish His will. Real prayer is not telling God what to do, but asking God to do His will in us and through us. It means getting God’s will done on earth, not man’s will done in heaven.
The people did not pray to have their circumstances changed or their enemies put out of office. Rather, they asked God to empower them to make the best use of their situation and to accomplish what He had already determined; this was not “fatalism” but faith in the Lord of history who has a perfect plan and is always victorious. They asked for divine enablement, not escape; and God gave them the power that they needed.
“Do not pray for easy lives,” wrote Phillips Brooks. “Pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” That is the way the early Christians prayed, and that is the way God’s people should pray today.
They addressed God as “Sovereign Lord,” the God who is in control of all things. The Greek word gives us our English word despot, a ruler who exercises absolute power, either benevolently or abusively. Simeon used this same title when he prayed in the temple. It’s nice to know the Sovereign Lord when you are experiencing persecution.
The people also approached Him as the Creator, for, after all, if your Father is “Lord of heaven and earth,” what have you to fear? (see Matt. 11:25-30) Nehemiah approached God on this same basis, and so did the psalmist (see Ps. 145) and the Prophet Isaiah. Years later, when he wrote his first epistle, Peter encouraged suffering saints to yield themselves to the faithful Creator.
Psalm 2 describes the revolt of the nations against the Lord and His Christ. The psalm originally grew out of the crowning of a new king in Israel, perhaps David; but its ultimate message points to the King of kings, Jesus Christ. Whenever a new king was enthroned, the vassal rulers around were required to come and submit to him; but some of them refused to do this. God only laughed at their revolt, for He knew that they could never stand up against His King.
The early believers applied the message of this psalm to their situation and identified their adversaries as Herod, Pilate, the Romans, and the Jews. These enemies had “ganged up” against Jesus Christ and even crucified Him, yet God raised Him from the dead and enthroned Him in heaven. All of this was a part of God’s perfect plan (see Acts 2:23; 3:18), so there was no need to fear.
The early church firmly believed in God’s sovereignty and His perfect plan for His people. But note that they did not permit their faith in divine sovereignty to destroy human responsibility, for they were faithful to witness and prayed. It is when God’s people get out of balance and overemphasize either sovereignty or responsibility that the church loses power. Once again Augustine’s wise words remind us to, “Pray as though everything depends on God, and work as though everything depended on you.” Faith in a sovereign Lord is a tremendous encouragement for God’s people to keep serving the Lord when the going is difficult.
- They did not ask for protection; they asked for power.
- They did not ask for fire from heaven to destroy the enemy (see Luke 9:51-56), but for power from heaven to preach the Word and heal the sick (see Matt. 5:10-12, 43-48).
Their great desire was for boldness in the face of opposition (see Acts 4:17). The emphasis is on the hand of God at work in the life of the church, not the hand of man at work for God. Believing prayer releases God’s power and enables God’s hand to move.
Finally, note that they wanted to glorify God’s Child (Servant), Jesus Christ. It was His name that gave them the power to minister the Word and to perform miracles, and His name alone deserved the glory. The glory of God, not the needs of men, is the highest purpose of answered prayer.
God’s answer was to shake the place where they were meeting and to fill the people once again with the Spirit of God; this gave them the boldness that they needed to continue to serve God in spite of official opposition. This filling of the Holy Spirit was not a “second Pentecost” because there cannot be another Pentecost any more than there can be another Calvary. It was a new filling of the Spirit to equip the believers to serve the Lord and minister to the people.
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Dynamic (Acts 1-12)