Here’s a thought provoking question about prayer: if God answered all the prayers you prayed in the last week, where would the benefit be seen most—in your life or in the world? It is not wrong to pray for ourselves but if prayer is an echoing of the heart of God then surely the blessings will extend far beyond us. It’s under pressure that our true self is exposed. Some disciples in the book of Acts surprise us with a prayer for confidence in a crisis. They set a tremendous example, one that I certainly need.
Faced with difficult situations, my gut reaction is to use my brain to swerve around them. Self-preservation is instinctive. However, I often look back on my response and regret some hasty harshness, or I recognize a lost opportunity to bless someone.
The group of disciples in Acts chapter four was facing persecution. The temple guard had arrested Peter and John for praying in Jesus’ name and healing a lame man. Their interrogation concluded with a warning not to mention the name of Jesus, something that the disciples refused to agree to. When Peter and John reported, the group went to prayer:
They lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
‘The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:24-31)
I wonder what our prayers would sound like in a similar situation. Perhaps we would instinctively ask God for protection or, maybe, we would seek His will about moving to a safer place. Some of us might rain down prayers on the persecutors, “Bind our enemies, Lord!”
A new instinct drove the disciples to pray for everything they would need to fly through the storm of persecution—boldness and confidence in witnessing. They would continue to pray in “the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” They asked for signs and wonders as evidence of the truth of their message and the power of that name.
Immediately, the building shook, as if to signal God’s affirmation and pleasure, God filled them with His Holy Spirit, and they spoke God’s word boldly. God loves it when we continue to focus on doing right, extending His kingdom, and blessing the world around, no matter what.
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