By Shawn McMullen
Commissioned by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the early church enjoyed “the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47). This favor was short lived, however. As early as Acts chapter 4 the church began to fall on hard times.
Peter and John were imprisoned for healing a disabled man and giving Jesus credit. Released the following day, they were threatened and ordered not to speak anymore in Jesus’ name. Peter and John responded, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19, 20).
These early Christians endured skepticism, disbelief, and intimidation—not unlike the opposition the
21st-century church faces. Today atheism and secular humanism are on the rise while distorted views of tolerance and political correctness threaten biblical authority and obscure the counsel of God.
How can we counter such opposition today? How can we move beyond our response to criticism and actively promote God’s agenda in the world? In other words, how can we defend the faith and spread it?
Prayer is the key. Acts 4 shows how the early church responded in prayer to opposition, providing valuable lessons for us.
They Prayed Immediately (Acts 4:23, 24).
Upon their release from prison, Peter and John “went back to their own people.” Why? Because they knew the power, strength, and comfort they sought would be found in the prayers of the church.
And the church did not disappoint them. “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God” (v. 24). In a seamless transition the believers heard the apostles’ story and sought God’s help. Prayer was their first resort, not their last.
They Prayed Respectfully (Acts 4:24-28).
They acknowledged God’s sovereignty and purpose in the world. Quoting from Psalm 2, they considered the futility of kings and rulers who rebel against God and recognized a similar futility in those who opposed Christ. They noted that Jesus’ enemies did little more than fall in line with God’s eternal plan.
They Prayed Boldly (Acts 4:29, 30).
They asked for boldness to speak for God in the face of threats, opposition, and persecution. They asked God to show his mighty power to an unbelieving generation by healing and performing miraculous signs and wonders.
It was an unselfish, kingdom-centered prayer. They didn’t ask for protection from their accusers, conquest of their enemies, or vindication in the eyes of the people. Instead they prayed for boldness and power to faithfully proclaim God’s Word.
God Answered Powerfully (Acts 4:31).
“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” (Acts 4:31). They asked and God granted their request.
How kingdom-centered are our prayers? How much time do we devote to praying for the lost, the growth of the church, and the expansion of God’s kingdom?
The ending to this story suggests a simple principle: As we pray with urgency and humility, God answers with clarity and power.
Let’s learn to pray with boldness about things that matter to God.