Prayer in Persecution
Generous God, open my eyes to the resources I command as a child of the King. May I be ever grateful.
Read Acts 4:23–31
23 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. 24 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. 25 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?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’
27 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. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 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.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
They asked for boldness. God gave them boldness!
When Peter and John reported on the rulers’ threats, their family and friends immediately turned in united prayer to God. This was no trivial prayer. It is steeped in a knowledge of God’s character as revealed in the Scriptures, like the prayer of Hezekiah when Israel was faced with threats from the Assyrian king, Sennacherib (Isa. 37:16–20). They recognized that the opposition of the rulers was nothing when compared to God’s unassailable rule over all creation. Remembering David’s words concerning the Messiah (Psa. 2:1,2), they asked the rhetorical question, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” (25). These believers knew that it is futile for any earthly power to seek to prevent God accomplishing his will. Nations may rage, people may plot, kings may stand and rulers may assemble against the Lord’s anointed, but there is nothing they can do to thwart his purposes.
So, in trusting confidence, the community did not pray to be kept safe from persecution. They did not seem to consider obeying the rulers. They appealed to God’s justice in dealing with their opponents. Then they prayed for strength, courage and boldness freely to proclaim his word, so that the good news would continue to spread and Jesus’ work of healing and performing signs would authenticate their witness to him.
What an example of prayer, probably learned at Jesus’ feet (Luke 11:1)! Sometimes my prayers seem so self-centered and trivial. We are challenged to know God in a deeper way through his word and to pray, trusting that his purposes are being worked out in this troubled world. We need the Spirit’s courage to proclaim Jesus through our words and merciful actions in his name. Then we too will see and experience earth-shattering evidences of God’s powerful presence (cf. Exod. 19:18; Isa. 6:4) among his people and in this hostile world.
How are your prayers in crises like and unlike this prayer (24–30)? How is your Christian life characterized by boldness?
Mighty God, my heavenly Father, You are above all, in all and through all. Embolden me as I seek to serve You.