Praying Under Pressure, Acts 4:5-31 (esp. 23-31)
The healing of the crippled beggar, 3:1-10 – Peter’s speech to the people, 11-26 – Peter & John brought before the Sanhedrin, 4:1-7 – Peter’s reply, 8-12 – They are warned to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, 13-17 – Peter refuses, 18-22 – They return to their fellow-believers, who offer a remarkable prayer. So:-
1. Be clear who you are praying to, vv24-28
This is the longest part of the prayer!
They appealed to the God who is sovereign:-
- in creation, v24 (Maker, and therefore Master, of everything)
- in revelation, v25f (Psa 2 predicts that wicked people would oppose Christ and his people)
- in history, v27f (weaving even its blackest deeds into his master plan of redemption).
‘You are coming to a King: large petitions to him bring’ (Newton)
2. Be careful what you pray for(!), vv29f
What would you have prayed for, under the circumstances? They prayed for the very thing that had got them into trouble in the first place!
(a) They prayed for boldness. Not, ‘protect us from persecution’, but give us courage. Not ‘change our circustances’, but, ‘change us’.
(b) They prayed for miracles. An extraordinary event in the natural world, prompting people to respond, “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
(Miracles then and now – what’s the difference?)
So: they prayed for the success of the gospel. Do we?
3. Be confident that your prayer will be heard, v31
(a) They got a miracle (with more to come, 5:12-16). The God who shook the foundations of the building is the same God who hears and answers the prayers of his people today.
(c) They were filled with the Holy Spirit. They hadn’t even asked for that! The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did not do away with the need for further ‘fillings’ on subsequent occasions.
(b) They got boldness. God gave them boldness to proclaim the gospel despite continuing persecution.
To take away
How do you feel about this? Excited, or exasperated?
(a) Let’s realise the vast potential of prayer. We are millionaires who walk around as if we were paupers, and seldom draw on the resources God has amply provided.
(b) Let’s be prepared to start small. If you can’t pray as you would wish, pray as you can. If you don’t have the confidence to shout the gospel from the rooftops, share it in quieter ways. If you can’t pray for the conversion of the world, pray for five souls.
(c) Above all, let’s pray. ‘Lord, change me’, ‘Lord, use me’.