Monday, October 24, 2011

They Prayed for WHAT?!

Most Christians know that prayer is central to one’s spiritual existence both in private and public expressions.  Most are familiar with the what we call the “Lord’s Prayer.”  Few are familiar, though, with the “Apostles Prayer” of Acts 4.  It is to our extreme benefit to study and learn from this apostolic example for what the apostles prayed for and what we typically pray for are in stark contrast most of the time.

After appearing before the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin, the apostles were “charged …not to speak or teach at all in the Name of Jesus.”  [Acts 4.18]   In brave civil disobedience, Peter and John replied; “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  [Acts 4.19 – 20]  They were then further threatened and let go.

Peter and John then entered into prayer with the entire church.  That prayer is preserved for us by the Holy Spirit by the hand of Luke in Acts 4. 24b – 30.  While our prayers are often reactive to our circumstances, the apostles prayer in contrast, is proactive – not to get them “out of trouble” but to bolster them for MORE trouble!  Their prayer was not at the time of their arrest but at the time of their release.  They prayed for God’s help for strength to return to the battle, not to be taken out of the battle.  Therein is the lesson for us.

In observing the text we see it in four parts; there is a NEED for prayer, there is a DELIVERY of the prayer, there are RESULTS of the prayer and there, finally, are CONSEQUENCES of the prayer.

In 4.23 – 24a we see that the NEED of prayer was evident because their release was conditional; that they would cease speaking out in the Name of Jesus Christ.  The need for prayer was predicated on the fact that such a surrender was not an option and that Divine intervention was very much needed.

The DELIVERY of the prayer is given to us in 4.24b – 30.  The form, the content, the purpose and the mindset should be prototypically instructive to us in the 21st century.  The church of Christ faces existential madness and Islamic extremism from the outside and interpretive apostasy from the inside.  

Powerful prayer is needed more than at almost anytime since the 1st century for it was our Lord who asked the rhetorical question; “When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth?”  [Luke 18.8]  Friends, if we neglect powerful prayer we may just answer Jesus’ question in the negative.  Nothing would be more tragic!  Let us observe the details of the apostles prayerful delivery:

·         God is addressed as both Sovereign and all powerful
·         The prayer is based on Scripture [Psalms 2] which is quoted
·         It is acknowledged that opposition to the gospel is in God’s plan
·         God actually predestines certain events (though not individuals)
·         The persecution is NOT asked to be taken away
·         Three things ARE asked of God:
1.      That they will be able to SPEAK God’s Word
2.      That they speak this Word with “all boldness” (ESV)
a.      The phrase rendered “all boldness” is translated from the Greek word parrhesia which, according to Strong’s means “all out-spokeness, frankness, blunt, assured and plain (speaking).”
3.      That the Word “spoken boldly” will be confirmed by “healings, signs and wonders performed through the Name of You holy servant Jesus.” [4.30]  This was promised by Christ in Mark 16.20.  Today, as the Word is now complete, our confirmation is through that revealed Word.  Those who hear it from us can either accept it or reject it.  The miracle of preserved revelation IS our confirmation!

This powerful prayer had immediate RESULTS.  In 4.31 we see those immediate results;

·         The place was shaken
·         They were all filled with the Holy Spirit
·         They continued to speak the Word of God
·         That continuance was with BOLDNESS!

Not only were there immediate results, in 4.32 – 37, we see long term positive consequences:

·         The entire congregation was of one heart and soul
·         They had all things in common
·         The Apostles continued to give their testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ
·         Great grace was on them all
·         There was not a needy person among them
·         Land owners sold their land and gave the proceeds to the church
·         The Apostles distributed these funds according to the various needs in the congregation
·         God rose up Barnabas as an encourager

We can positively conclude that in our spiritually perilous times that we should pray for the ability to SPEAK God’s Word, to speak it OUTSPOKENLY, FRANKLY, BLUNTLY, ASSSURADLEY, AND PLAINLY, AND for God to confirm our words by the Scriptures rightly divided.  May our prayers be as the Apostles!

NOTE: Picture is a free public domain image of the "Jerusalem Cross"

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