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Acts 4:23-31 gives us an indication of what happened next after the authorities threatened the apostles following the healing of the crippled man at the temple gates. Far from being cowed or terrified by the threats, the apostles gathered together with other believers and prayed, not for deliverance or escape from persecution but for the ability to continue witnessing boldly.
This confident response (so at variance with their fear and trembling following the crucifixion of Jesus) reflected their growing conviction that God was in control. In their prayers, they addressed Him as ‘Sovereign Lord’, acknowledging His role as creator and sustainer of the universe. Human opposition was seen as futile and fruitless; their reference again to Old Testament Scripture (Ps 2) showed that no matter what plotting and scheming exists against God’s Anointed One, it will not prevail.
If we are to live confident, courageous lives, witnessing for God in the face of opposition and persecution, we need to examine our view of God. Matt Redman says, “A big view of God is a cure for so many of the things in life that would stand in our way or slow us down in ministry. When we really grasp the heights of who He is, and the depths of His heart for us, and the strength of His power in us, we can live a whole different kind of life. The way we view God will radically affect how our lives operate… We must see and believe Him as big enough, kind enough, real enough and strong enough to move in power in our everyday lives – no matter what we’re facing. The first step for a worshipper is to confidently get to grips with just how magnificent and mighty He is. The next step is to let that confidence in God seep into the very depths of our hearts and minds, forming a holy confidence on the inside of us. When that truly happens, we will dream bigger dreams and live brighter lives.”
It’s crucially important that prayer starts with our eyes on God and not on the problem. The believers focussed on God’s authority, power and strength before they moved on to their situation and their petitions. So often, we plunge right into prayer, listing our woes and laments, but if we consider the framework of the Lord’s Prayer (Jesus’ ‘model prayer’ for us), this too begins with an awareness of who God is and an adoring response to this awareness: ‘our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.’ (Matt 6:9) Perhaps one reason we question whether God hears and answers our prayers (quite unlike these disciples whose prayers led to the room being shaken and them all being filled with the Holy Spirit and continuing to speak the word of God boldly!) is because we’re not praying from this same conviction that God is in control. When we truly see how big, magnificent and mighty God is, we will pray confidently and expectantly, certain of God’s goodness and ability to turn even disasters into dreams and tragedies into triumphs.