Prayer That Matters

Of course we should pray—and yet in difficult situations we often still find ourselves asking ourselves the same question again: “What should I do?”

Peter and John faced such a situation in Acts 4. They were arrested, threatened, and charged “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (v. 18). There were many ways for these two Apostles to respond: they could flee, hide, speak, or remain silent. What should they have done? Their response as explained in verses 23–24 is remarkable when we consider the context. Immediately upon their release, they went to their friends—this new community of believers, now their friends in Christ—how wonderful! And together, they prayed.

 

When we as believers face a difficult providence or a complex problem, we might turn to a brother or sister in Christ and ask, “What should I do?” With godly wisdom, our friend responds, “Pray!” We recognize the wisdom of this friend’s advice—of course we should pray—and yet we often still find ourselves asking ourselves the same question again: “What should I do?”

Peter and John faced such a situation in Acts 4. They were arrested, threatened, and charged “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (v. 18). There were many ways for these two Apostles to respond: they could flee, hide, speak, or remain silent. What should they have done? Their response as explained in verses 23–24 is remarkable when we consider the context. Immediately upon their release, they went to their friends—this new community of believers, now their friends in Christ—how wonderful! And together, they prayed.

The Apostles understood prayer to be kingdom warfare. When these followers of Jesus gathered to pray in Jerusalem, they were involved in battle, actively engaging in the work of the church. Their prayer was driven by the gospel, as it was filled with gospel content; and their prayer was driven by kingdom interests, as they sought strength to be instruments of the Holy Spirit in the advance of the church. In studying this passage, we can grow in our practice of gospel-driven, kingdom-centered prayer.

Gospel-Driven Prayer

When the disciples prayed together in Acts 4, they chose words saturated with the content of the gospel. We see a prayer framed by the character, words, and work of God.

They began with a reflection on the character of God (v. 24). They remembered the truth of who God is. They cried out to the Sovereign Lord, a title used also for despots and dictators. Maybe that choice of title surprises us, but it surely matched their present need. Peter and John had been threatened by earthly rulers who possessed great power, but they cried out to the Sovereign Lord of the universe who possesses all power and authority (Dan. 7:13–14, 26–27Matt. 28:18–20). He created all things—“who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them”—and He sustains all things.

We can be sure they didn’t choose this title by mistake. Remembering that their God is the Sovereign Lord of the universe met their need head on. They faced a real threat, and they needed to know whether the Lord was powerful and able to care for them. Of course, He was—and remains—able. The rulers who threatened them were merely creatures, but the Apostles served the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and the nations and rulers serve as His footstool. He was able.

They reflected on who God is, but they also remembered what God had said. “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed” (Acts 4:25–26). They recited the first two verses of Psalm 2. Do you remember how the Lord responds to the raging and plotting of the nations according to this psalm? Seated on His throne in heaven, He laughs (Ps. 2:4). God reminds His people in Psalm 2 that He not only creates and sustains all things, but He rules over all things, including the nations. The gentiles rage, but the Lord reigns. The peoples plot, but the Lord prevails. No matter how powerful are the rulers and nations, when they plot and rebel against the Lord, they are fighting a losing battle.

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