This past Sunday with the Columbia Church of Christ I preached on the passage from Acts 4:23-31 as a continuation of our The Church: Christ Convicted, Spirit Fueled Mission Living sermon series from Acts 1-11 (unfortunately the recording of the sermon did not take, so I cannot post that). The passage tells of this emerging Jesus movement coming together to pray in response to the opposition and threats they are facing.
The prayer petition comes in vv 29-30:
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch our your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
I have blogged on this passage of scripture before which you can read here. However, I feel the need to say more because I believe this passage ought to challenge us to our core as Christians. For this post, rather than discussing the details, I want to discuss the place of prayer.
Why did this church pray? We already know that prayer was one of the regular practices of this new movement (cf. Acts 2:42), so it should be little surprise that they do respond in prayer to the challenge they face. But I think it needs to be said that these disciples went to God in prayer because they believed in the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen them in the face of danger. It’s pretty simple. They prayed because they believed in God, not themselves.
So this begs another question: When our churches are faced with challenges, is prayer the response? This is an important question because how that question is answered says a bunch about our faith and theology.
The other day as I was reading over this passage the thought occurred to me, ministry that does not emerge out of prayer is an act of unbelief. It is unbelief in the mighty power of God who strengthens and empowers his people through the Holy Spirit. While most of us recognize our own limitations, if we believe that God is more than capable of enabling us as his servants to speak his word with great boldness while stretching out his hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus then we our ministry will always be emerging out of prayer.
This passage in Acts ends with v. 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.” Let it be said, amazing things happen when God’s people pray!