Acts 4:23-31 (AD 30)
Have you ever been around someone to whom you looked up for their devotion to God? Or their desperation to get the gospel into the ears of those who don’t know God?
If you’ve ever had the privilege of listening to them pray, it probably sounded different to most prayers you’ve heard. There’s an urgent pleading in their voices that in my everyday self, I don’t relate to very well. They seem to have an intimacy with God that is inspiring.
There’s also an instinct towards prayer, with people like that, which I experience in my better moments. Something’s happened? Pray. Something might happen? Pray. You want something to (not) happen? Pray. It’s almost like breathing.
Peter and John had just been given “further threats” (v.21) by the religious leaders to stop telling people about Jesus. When they reported back to the other believers, the response of the group was to pray. Note what they prayed about:
- Praise for who God is and what he’s done in creation (v.24)
- Praise for who God is and what he’s done sovereignly fulfilling prophesies about Jesus, even using wicked people’s own desires to achieve wonderful things (v.25-28)
- Request for boldness in sharing the good news about Jesus (v.29)
- Request for ability to perform miracles to verify the truth of their message about Jesus (v.30)
Compare that with Paul’s words:
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19-20)
We have a tendency to write Paul off as an inspiration because he was always a bold and forceful character, even when he was anti-God. But that prayer request to the Ephesians came from someone who was clearly prone to being fearful, and was in danger of letting that fear get in his way.
So what was the deal with Paul and the other apostles? What did they have that we don’t? What special spiritual gifting made them so passionate and incessant in their praying, and so focused on evangelism, compared to us?
Was it the Holy Spirit? No – as a Christian, you have him with you, too.
Was it a special empowering? Apart from the ability to perform miracles, which we are not promised, the empowering is common to all: strength and wisdom to say what needs to be said to those who need to hear it.
But they did have a few things that most of us, mostly, lack. They thought a lot about who God is and what he’s done. They were keenly aware of God’s active participation in history and were grateful for all of it. It didn’t occur to them that anything was even close to as important as getting the gospel to those who need it.
So we should definitely ask for boldness, but…well…do you really WANT to be bold? Or does it seem not quite you. Not entirely desirable? Then perhaps first, we should read more, and talk to God more, about who he is and what he’s done.
As we become more aware of God, the boldness to tell others about him naturally becomes something we want. And others’ need of him will stir our guts.