Summary: What should our attitude and praying be like since we have been enlisted in the war-time effort of spreading the gospel?
As your turning to Acts 4:23-31, I want to read what John Piper wrote concerning prayer. Listen to the imagery that he uses as he describes the true purpose of prayer.
“Life is war. That’s not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world. Prayer gives us the significance of front-line forces, and gives God the glory of a limitless Provider. The one who gives the power gets the glory. Thus prayer safeguards the supremacy of God in missions while linking us with endless grace for every need.” (John Piper, “Let the Nations Be Glad”)
Do we honestly look at our Christian life as a war? Do we see it as a battle between the forces of Satan and this world order against our spreading of the gospel of Christ? Do we see it as a battle that we can’t win apart from the power of the Holy Spirit? Until we do, we’ll never understand what it really means to pray.
The early church knew this kind of life. In our text today, we see that after Peter and John had been threatened and warned to compromise the mission Christ had given them, the only thing they knew to do was to pray.
And from this text we are going to see what our attitude and our prayer should be since as believers we have been enlisted in the wartime effort of sharing the message of Jesus Christ with our community, our country, and our world.
I. The Motivation With Which They Prayed
What was the motivating force that drove this church to pray? Look at verses 23 and 24,
“And when they had been released, they went to their own companions, and reported all that the chief priest sand the elders had said to them. And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God…”
There’s one small word in this verse that reveals to us the motivating factor and I want you to underscore. It’s the word “this.” Now what was the “this” referring to? Well, it simply refers back to the entire uprising of the Sadducees and the threats of the Sanhedrin that we looked at last week.
This whole account began back in Acts 3. Remember, Peter and John were going up to the temple to pray. At the gate they ran into a guy that had been lame from birth and whose friends dropped him off at the temple everyday so that he could beg money from people. The guy tried getting money off of them, but instead they gave him something unexpected. Something that money could not buy. They told him to get up and walk. Then, they pulled him up and he had the strength not only to walk, but as Acts 3:8 says, he was “walking and leaping and praising God.”
This drew a crowd, Peter preached the good news of Jesus, and called the people and the leaders to respond.
Now Acts 4:2 says the religious leaders were disturbed. They charged them and threw them in jail for the night. The next day they were called to defend themselves before the Jewish Supreme Court. Acts 4:17 says that the court’s ruling was this:
“But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name.”
With boldness, Peter and John made it crystal clear that they were going to obey God instead. Since the court had nothing to book them with they threatened some more and sent them out.
Now this is where our text picks up. They went back with the other believers and reported all that had happened. All that is wrapped up in the word “this.” But because this was the first time they had faced any sort of opposition they began feeling a sense of despair. So, the word “this” signifies desperation. That was the motivating factor. They were scared. It was the authority of God verses the authority of man and they were caught in the middle. And by choosing God they automatically put themselves at odds with the religious leaders of that day.
Now for them to be in this position meant that they could be excommunicated, meaning no one could talk to you, beaten, or even put to death. Choosing God had a huge price tag on it. But they were willing to pay.