There aren’t many templates in Scripture on how to pray. But there are examples and dramatic narratives. And it’s there, in those stories, that we get the best instruction, the best tutoring on how God wants His people to pray.
A short time after Jesus returns to heaven the new church is still in trouble with the authorities. There was this forty-year-old crippled guy – whom everybody knew about – who was miraculously healed. As the Message paraphrase tells it in Acts 4, he was standing there, “so upright – so healed! – what could they say against that?” So the church sheriffs threatened them that they shouldn’t do that anymore. Or else.
Unfrazzled, Peter and John did what any healthy Christian would do, they went to their friends. And then we get this firsthand report of the prayer season that followed – a five-verse anthem of praise! I mean, that’s pretty amazing. The church sheriffs had just killed their leader, and there was every reason to believe their fate could be the same.
But for the next five verses they make no mention of that (vs 24 – 28). They only spend the time in worship. Now there’s a great illustrative template on the counsel, “enter into His presence with thanksgiving.” (Ps. 95:2) If we begin our prayer time with profound praise it will change how we pray and what we pray about.
But the next theme of their intercession is actually astonishing. I think I know what I would have prayed for…something like, “And Lord, please send mighty angels to protect us. There are those who are intent on doing us harm. Confuse their efforts and grant us the protection we need. May none of our team be injured or arrested…” I could have built a pretty strong case for my request.
But their’s was different: They had been given an assignment and they would not be distracted by a minor blip like persecution. Or anything else. After a brief description of the mistreatment of their Messiah, their only request was that God would embolden them and empower them to carry out their assignment: telling the world about Jesus. The Message again: “Give Your servants fearless confidence (emphasis mine) in preaching our Message…”
The angels were so excited by their prayer they shook the building. That was, for the infant church, heaven’s Yes!
In fact, Luke (the author of Acts) wants to make sure we know the power of God’s gift to a worshiping congregation. In describing the outcome of this intercession he writes, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s word with fearless confidence.” (v 31)
Thank You, Lord. Please do it again. Amen
By Don Jacobsen (hope-heals.org)