Acts 4: 23 – 31 The believers pray
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
‘ “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.”
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
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Let’s look at the sequence of events.
- Peter and John returned to their own people.
- They reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
- They prayed aloud and together.
- They based their prayer on Scripture and the events that were taking place around them.
- The spoken words of their prayer identified the will of God for them.
- They aligned themselves with God’s will, his plan and purpose for them.
- When they had finished praying, their meeting place shook.
Now let’s look a little more deeply at each of these events, and see something of what they can mean for us today.
- Peter and John’s own people were part of the congregation of believers that was growing in Jerusalem – the early church, in fact. Very possibly it was mostly the disciples who had been with Jesus during his earthly ministry.
Our own people are the church to which we belong, and it is important that we each participate as fully as we can. God has surrounded us with people who can guide, encourage and help us understand God’s will.
- John and Peter reported to their people. This had two results; their people could pray about what had happened, and how it fitted into God’s plan; and there was an oral record of an important miracle. The public healing of the lame man and the bold proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah are there in our bible to encourage us solely as a result of Peter and John reporting it to their people.
Likewise, it’s important that we share testimony of what we see the Lord doing. It gives us knowledge that we need to take God’s plan forward in our neighbourhood.
- The congregation surrounding Peter and John prayed together and out loud.
How often do we do that? The church where I worship has a brief time for public intercessory prayer. I wonder if we should try to increase the amount of congregational prayer?
- On this occasion, the apostles’ prayer was based on scripture (Psalm 2: 1,2) and on what was happening around them. They spoke of the conspiracy between Herod, Pilate and the Israelites against Jesus. They put this in the context of God’s plan, making a very definite assertion that the conspiracy “did what God’s power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” They also spoke of the threats made against Peter and John.
Prayer in the church where I worship doesn’t, on the whole, do this. Perhaps this is related to the rarity of testimony among us. Perhaps it is due to a lack of alertness to the will of God. Perhaps we don’t care enough for God’s plan.
- The Holy Spirit inspired their prayer, and gave them words to pray that identified what they needed to do. They found themselves praying, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”
If we prayed about our part in the mission of the church in specific concrete terms as the apostles did, we too would be inspired to our next actions.
- The words that they prayed about their own actions led on immediately to a greater understanding of God’s plan for them, and they prayed, “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” They saw and understood the connection between the healing miracle and the opportunity to testify to thousands, and they prayed for that opportunity to be given repeatedly.
We need, today, to be aware that prayer is mostly about us learning from God what his will is for us. It is about trying to allow ourselves to be aligned with his plan through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- God confirmed their understanding by making their meeting place shake, and perceptibly filling them with the Holy Spirit.
When was the last time your church building shook?
Thank you for this passage of scripture telling us how we can do your will more effectively. Please help us to put the teaching into practice.
In Jesus name, Amen.