If you’re like me, your prayer life may have become a little routine, and a lot safe. Maybe you’re in a bit of a prayer rut, stuck praying repetitive, predicable, safe prayers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for God to protect us, provide for us, improve my attitude, help me and help those close to me to have a good day and so on. All fine things to pray for, but also all very safe. None of them stretched me or stretched my faith. They aren’t hot or cold, they are lukewarm prayers. The problem is, safe and lukewarm prayers don’t draw us closer to God or help us reveal His love to this world. Think about this, if God answered your prayers from yesterday, would the world be any different today? Are we praying big, bold and even scary prayers?
There is a great example of praying boldly in Acts 4. But to get there, lets take a look at the events in Acts 3 that lead the Apostles to this place prayer.
Peter and John met the lame beggar on the way in to the temple to pray. The lame asked for alms or money, but Peter and John said, silver and gold we do not have, but what we have, we give to you. Led by the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter told the man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk” Peter reached out his hand and raised the man to his feet. The man stood up, walked, leaped and was praising God. Then as the man was holding on to Peter and John all the people saw and were utterly astonished. When Peter saw all the attention this miracle created, he realized this would be a perfect opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus. It was by faith in the name of Jesus Christ that this man was made whole.
OK, so it seems like everything is just clicking for the Apostles and the early church here, people are getting healed physically and even more so, saved spiritually, by faith in Jesus. The church has grown to several thousand people in a very short time. The new believers were committed and giving all they had. It seems like, wow, things just going great. Until, Chapter 4, after this amazing healing.
As Peter and John were preaching and teaching the resurrection of the dead though Jesus, the religious leaders heard and got annoyed and arrested Peter and John. But not before about 5000 more men heard and believed the message. It’s interesting to me that the CSB uses the word “annoyed” here to express the feelings of the religious leaders in this situation. Why would they be annoyed? Why is this word still accurate in 2020 to describe those who oppose Jesus and Christianity? There are two reasons that come to mind. 1) They can’t make sense of it, or more accurately, Him. They cant wrap their minds around the concept of our desperate need of a savior. Or, 2) They don’t want to admit or acknowledge a savior, because that means being held accountable for the lives they live. Either way, hearing people declare Jesus would be very annoying.
Peter and John were arrested and held overnight, because it was already evening. The last time something like this happened, it was the night Jesus was arrested. I can only imagine the thoughts that were going through their minds. They very well may have been thinking, “this could be it for us, already.” Best case scenario they would be facing flogging, worst case, death. But one thing I would almost promise you, they spent the night in prayer, seeking Gods leading and purpose through this trial.
The next day, their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and all the members of the high-priestly family. After they had Peter and John stand before them, they began to question them: “By what power or in what name have you done this?” Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man, by what means he was healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead — by him this man is standing here before you healthy. This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”
That is how you speak boldly for your faith! In the face of people who were annoyed and didn’t want to hear, in the face of people who had a hand in killing the savior of the world, in the face of people who had the worldly power and authority to punish and kill them, they spoke boldly, unapologetically, unwavering for Jesus.
When the religious leaders saw their boldness, they were amazing and knew they had been with Jesus.
The lame man was healed, everyone knew him and everyone knew he was healed by the power and authority of Jesus’ name, there was nothing left to be said, they couldn’t deny the healing and they couldn’t deny the source of the healing. God had done a clear sign, a miracle, and all of Jerusalem saw it.
So unable to deny it or cover it up, all the religious leaders could do was threaten Peter and John and try to order them not to speak about Jesus or do anything in the name of Jesus again.
Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After threatening them further, they released them. They found no way to punish them because the people were all giving glory to God over what had been done. For this sign of healing had been performed on a man over forty years old.
After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Master, you are the one who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant: Why do the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot futile things? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers assemble together against the Lord and against his Messiah.
“For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your will had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.
After facing arrest and an informal trial and coming through with boldness by the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter and John come back to their people and reported what had happened. And we see here, their first response, their only response, over and over in the book of Acts, is to pray, to be united in prayer.
This prayer starts out, Master, the creator of everything, they praise and glorify God. The best way to start our prayers is always with praise and worship. Then they quote scripture back to God from psalms 2, you said through the holy spirit by the mouth of your servant David… psalms 2
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One: “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.” The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then he speaks to them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath: “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will declare the Lord ’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter; you will shatter them like pottery.” So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling. Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for his anger may ignite at any moment. All who take refuge in him are happy.
So when we understand scripture, when we know scripture, we can know the heart and character of God, we can know the things we are facing now are now aren’t new or unique to us. And even more so, we can pray scripture back to God, there in an undeniable power in that.
We can see in scripture that God knew we would be hated and persecuted, so we shouldn’t be discouraged by it. We can’t allow people to cause us to doubt what God has called us to do, but rather, we can pray with a boldness beyond ourselves.
It was prophesied over and over in scripture that the world would hate Jesus, and not just Jesus, but also those who come bearing His name. But not just hate from the Joe Schmoes either, but big hate, hate from the powers that be, governing authorities, the kings of the world right down to and including the Joe Schmoes. Many will rage and plot against God, His son and His church. But God, in His fullness of love peace and authority, will still do what He has planned to do, and will not be stopped He will not be slowed down or pressed to move faster.
What’s happening here is the apostles, after being arrested and threatened and persecuted, went to pray, Its what they prayer that I find fascinating here. They didn’t pray for safety or protection or for less persecution, rather, they prayed for two things specifically.
First, they prayed for more boldness to face it. Praying for God to keep us safe is great, but prayer for God to put us in the middle of fight and give us boldness to speak in your name to those who don’t want to hear it, is a whole different thing.
Second, they prayed for God’s hand of healing and signs and wonders to be stretched out through the name of Jesus Christ. Are we praying this way, do we have an expectation that not only God will love us and save us, but also that He will give healings and signs and wonders? In our world healings and signs and wonders have received a bad rap. It’s usually a guy on TV with a dark tan and white suit screaming and carrying on and people are falling down and shaking. Healings and signs and wonders have a connection to putting on a performance to make money. So, in turn, we have almost gone too far the other way and don’t want anything to happen that we can’t explain or that would make us weird or “that church”.
The healing of the lame man wasn’t high drama or cinematic, it was actually very simple, by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk. We need to get this idea of healings and signs and wonders being fake or being overly dramatized out of our minds and believe and expect God to do it.
After they had prayed this, the building they were in began to shake and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the Word of God boldly. Now that’s a bold prayer, an out of the routine prayer, and push us out of our comfort zone type of prayer that would impact the world when God answers it.
I hope you come away today with a renewed desire to pray big, uncomfortable prayers that will not only help us get through the day, but change the world if a remarkable way. Pray BIG, Expect BIG, Live UNHINDERED.