“Enable your servants to speak your Word with great boldness.” ~Acts 4:29
In Acts 4 we find the very first ever prayer recorded in Scripture after the establishment of God’s Church on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 4:24-30 is the Church’s first prayer. It was worded by an assembly of God’s people, all raising their voices together in united and passionate petition to the “Sovereign Lord” of the universe in the midst of government oppression against the teaching and preaching of Christ Jesus.
The prayer occurs in the immediate aftermath of Peter and John being arrested and jailed and questioned by the authorities and commanded to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. It’s important to note that this group of baptized disciples didn’t ask God for relief from the oppression or for judgment on the oppressors. They request only two things.
1) They ask for strength to obey during the oppression, to have the nerve and the guts and the faith to continue to speak boldly about the Christ even though it had been outlawed.
2) They ask for God to act in his mighty power to do what he needs to do to advance the Kingdom of Heaven and bring glory to Jesus.
In the face of tremendous opposition, when the persecution and government resistance to Christianity was escalating and getting worse, the Church didn’t pray for wisdom or protection or for favor with the authorities. They didn’t pray that the next election would go their way so their situation would change. And I’m not saying those are inappropriate things for which to pray. But this prayer during this crisis was for the ability to be obedient to Christ’s command to continue to teach the Gospel. The concern here is not for safety or deliverance from persecution. It’s for the Word to go forth and for Christ to be glorified.
What an amazing response! What a counter-cultural, Christ-like response! This prayer as a response to the problem is so totally opposite of what was happening in their world. This prayer goes so against the prevailing thought. And John used to be caught up in that culture. When Jesus and the apostles faced opposition in a Samaritan village, it was John and his brother James who said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” Scripture says Jesus turned and rebuked them. Peter used to be caught up in the culture. He had actually pulled out a sword in the garden the night his Lord was betrayed. He tried to chop a guy’s head off! But Jesus rebuked him and actually healed the man who’d been injured.
By Acts 4, as evidenced by this beautiful prayer, we see how Peter and John have grown. We see how they’ve changed. We see how the Holy Spirit inside them was transforming them into the image of Jesus. In the face of opposition and persecution, they lash out in unified prayer together with all the saints and they ask for boldness to obey and to continue to speak about their risen Lord and they ask that God be glorified.
If resistance to the Kingdom and opposition to the Kingdom gets worse in our land—or I should say WHEN it gets worse—may we find our comfort and strength with each other, may we be bold to continue speaking about Jesus, and may our Father act in powerful ways to bring glory to his holy servant Jesus.