Acts~4:23-31

As soon as they could, Peter and John went back to their friends and told them everything. And then they prayed together. It’s a great first reaction. It is very unlikely that they all said these words together – though they may have been written or pre-learned. It seems more likely that one person lead the group, but that the prayer represented the thoughts of all present.

This prayer doesn’t think that God was out of control and that’s how the leaders were allowed to persecute the apostles. In fact, the entire prayer from the first word to v28 seems to simply be acknowledging God’s sovereignty. There are two proofs given for this, marked by the two “who”s which refer to God. Firstly, God created everything. Secondly, God said (through David) the words of Psalm 2. Why does that show God’s control? “For truly…” shows that these disciples believed this was a prophecy of God about Jesus which had come true – the events didn’t catch God by surprise. Looking at the rest of the Psalm, even as the people plot against God he is laughing at them and waiting until the moment when his anger will terrify them – they will never beat him and the disciples would have remembered that part of the Psalm as well. Finally, in case it was just that God knew what was going to happen but couldn’t actively do anything about it, it is made clear in v28 that the death of Jesus is what God’s hand and “plan had predestined”.

Yet the prayer doesn’t complain to God or blame him. Jesus had promised persecutions, so the disciples weren’t being short-changed.  Instead, once they have realised that God is completely in control, and it must have been a huge comfort to know that he couldn’t be beaten by the human authorities who were causing them problems, they simply come to God and ask him to get them through whatever the council – and ultimately God himself – has coming. They don’t ask for protection or even success, but that they will continue to speak God’s word and for a continuation of the miracles God has sent. Since Jesus promised they would be witnesses (1:8) and that they would be able to heal the sick (eg, Luke 10:9), they are on fairly safe ground.

It is an astounding prayer. In many prayers, people bring their suggestions to put in God’s inbox and demand he does things our way. From the point of view of suggesting things to God, this prayer was entirely useless. Essentially it reads “God, you are in control of everything. Everything you say, happens. Do what you said you would.” It could be argued that this is useless as it doesn’t tell God anything new or suggest anything new. (I am, in fact, exaggerating to make a point. I don’t think I know anyone who would say that.) God certainly approved of this prayer – he instantly did the two things which they asked for. The building was miraculously shaken, and the disciples received a fresh filling of the Spirit which gave them the boldness to speak God’s word.

v31 – a couple of theological notes, while I’m here. Firstly, the inseparable relation of the Spirit of God and the word of God – as seen in many other passages. Secondly, the Spirit seems to act in big ways at big moments. In the next chapter, similar events to the apostles’ imprisonment occur, with no subsequent filling of the Spirit. God provided assurance the first time that they needed it, and then wanted them to remember and to trust.

Sovereign Lord, I praise you that are in control, that you created everything and run it, that your promises and plans can’t be thwarted and that you know what is best. I ask that you will help me trust you and submit only to your will. Please give me boldness to speak about you, and cause me to grow closer to you and more like your Son. Amen.

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