Acts of the Apostles 4: 23-31 (NIV)
The Believers’ Prayer
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and 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 heaven 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 take their stand and the rulers gather 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 miraculous 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.
A little background: Peter and John on their way to the temple in Jerusalem healed a man who had been crippled from birth. As they addressed the crowd that quickly gathered, they were apprehended by the temple guard, imprisoned, brought before the High Priest, interrogated, threatened and eventually released. That led to the prayer we find in this passage which begins at verse 24.
A key verse to me is 29: ‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.’
During June 2014, PCF members were blessed to attend an address by an Australian representative of Open Doors. The persecutions suffered by Christian women, men and children across the world, increasing in number and intensity, are largely ignored by the ‘mainstream media’.
We are reminded of the persecutions faced by the early church. Acts 9 opens with the account of Saul’s persecuting those who belonged to the Way; in fact he was persecuting the one whose Church it is! When the Damascus-bound Saul fell to the ground he heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ (verse 4). And then in verse 5, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting …’. An attack against the Church is an attack against its head, Jesus Christ.
Examples of courage among those persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ are plentiful. In June 2014 when this talk was given, Meriam Ibrahim, who had been imprisoned and sentenced to death in Sudan for alleged apostasy, was continuing to proclaim her commitment to Jesus Christ. Tens of thousands of Christian men and women continue to endure imprisonment in North Korea because of their faithfulness to Jesus Christ. This was the nature of the courage witnessed by the rulers, elders and teachers of the law: ‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4: 13).
Commanded not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus, these two replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4: 19-20).
May we, regardless of our circumstances, demonstrate the same courage at all times and pray, ‘enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness’.