MAY 17

Prayer Amidst Opposition

Bible Reading: Acts 4:1-31

“They lifted their voices to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24, NASB)

It was about five years ago…Inspired and challenged by the example of our Ugandan brethren, God led me to organize something we went on to call “Pray for Clatsop County.”  I met with a fellow pastor and outlined a plan by which we could seek to gather believers from like-minded churches to pray.  Our plan was to focus on our churches, our families and our outreach to the lost in our community.  It was not a simple thing, because we knew how difficult it would be to get believers from different churches to agree to do anything!  Kind of like herding cats!  But we prayed fervently and garnered prayer support from our two churches.  I began to call on pastors in the community.  Some of them recognized the need and were very excited about it.  We arranged for a date and a meeting place at Astoria High School.  I had no idea how many would come.  In the end we were pleasantly surprised and encouraged.  Ten different pastors and over one hundred believers gathered together to pray.  Pastors led in prayer.  Then we broke into small groups to pray over specific needs.  That was the first of three such gatherings!  There was a need for believers to gather together, devoting themselves to prayer and things haven’t changed.

As I organized those prayer meetings, one of the passages in the back of my mind was the prayer of the early church found in Acts chapter 4.  There we find a model prayer for the church in the challenges we face.  In that account, In the name of Jesus, Peter healed a 40-year-old beggar who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:1-8).  The people at the temple witnessed the event and were filled with “wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:10).  That led to a second opportunity for Peter to proclaim the truth about Jesus (Acts 3:11-26).  The religious leaders were greatly annoyed with Peter and John for “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.  And they arrested them” (Acts 4:1-2).  “But many of those who had heard the word believed and the number of the men came to about five thousand” (Acts 4:4).  

The powerful Sanhedrin set Peter and John in their midst and interrogated them about what they had done.  Peter and John did not shrink back from declaring the truth.  Instead, they clearly stated salvation could be found in no One else, except Jesus (Acts 4:12).  This baffled the religious leaders.  They didn’t know what to do because an undeniable miracle had taken place.  In fact, as the religious leaders were interrogating Peter and John, the man who had been miraculously healed stood beside them.  In the end they decided to charge Peter and John “to speak no more to anyone in this name” (Acts 4:17-18).  Peter and John could not possibly obey, for they had received a command from Jesus Himself to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8, 4:19-20).  So, after threatening them some more, the religious leaders decided to let Peter and John go.

So, what did Peter and John do?  What didn’t they do?  They didn’t wring their hands in distress.  They didn’t organize a protest against the religious leaders (not that it would have done any good).  We find no evidence of their grumbling or complaining over their circumstances.  What did they do?  They returned to their friends and told them what had happened and together they took the matter to God in prayer.  Here we find the church’s first major obstacle.  For the first time they faced intense visible opposition and the threat of persecution.  So, they prayed!  There’s a lesson here for us. Those early believers marked out a path for us to follow.  When troubles come our way the best thing we can do is pray!

And what did they pray?  Maybe not as we might expect.  They prayed to their Sovereign Lord, the One who created all things (Acts 4:24).  The religious leaders were powerful, but they served a God who was and is omnipresent, for Whom nothing is impossible.  These early believers understood their lives were in His hands. They prayed Scripture, reminding themselves their experience was not mere happenstance. The events had been prophesied centuries beforehand in the Scriptures (Acts 4:25-26).  They reminded themselves of the sovereignty of God over their circumstances.  They realized God had likewise previously worked through evil men to accomplish His purpose (Acts 4:27-28).  Their prayer request?  That they’d be given further opportunities to proclaim the truth about Jesus and that they would do so with all boldness (Acts 4:29-30; 1:8).  God was so pleased with their prayer; He shook the place where they were gathered (Acts 4:31)!  Then He emboldened them in their witness just as they had prayed (Acts 4:33)!

We live in needy times.  Our hearts must remember our God is the creator of all, for Whom nothing is too difficult.  Nothing currently happening in our world is contrary to what we’ve been previously warned about in the Scriptures.  God is no less sovereign over the affairs of men than He was when those folks prayed as they did.  Right now, in these difficult times, we have good news to share!  People need the Lord!  “Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).  Amen.

When Troubles Come Our Way the Best Thing We Can Do is Pray!

GOD OF GRACE AND GOD OF GLORY

God of grace and God of glory,
on your people pour your pow’r;
crown your ancient Church’s story,
bring its bud to glorious flow’r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.

Lo, the hosts of evil round us
scorn the Christ, assail his ways.
From the fears that long have bound us
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.

Cure your children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.

Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of your salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
serving you whom we adore,
serving you whom we adore.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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