What Peter didn't pray (and what it teaches us)
I've been studying a little bit of Acts this week and last night read through the end of chapter four, where Peter and John return from their first incarceration for spreading the Gospel. They immediately go back to their newly formed group of Christians and told them what happened. Then they prayed.
They start by recounting what God promised (a Savior who would be killed) and what He delivered (a Savior who was killed) and then they prayed for themselves.
As I read that prayer I realized these preachers of Gospel didn't ask for many of the things I ask for when I pray and I wondered if by my asking I am limiting the work of God.
1. Punishment for their persecutors. I try really hard not to pray for bad things to happen to those who oppose the gospel, but think about your reaction when the likes of Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein were captured and killed? Did you rejoice? Even just a little bit? Do you pray hard would come to those who persecute the Christian world-wide? Peter didn't. The only mentioned he made of these accusers was for God to remember the threat against them.
2. End of persecution. Peter also does pray that the persecution will end. One commentary says it is often during the time of most persecution and hardest trails that the church grows the most. As American Christians, many of us are praying for an end to the persecution we feel from the government, businesses and people around us. We pray for an end to persecution for Christians in other countries where many are jailed and even killed for the sake of the Gospel. But what if an end to the persecution isn't how God wants to work in a situation? What if by jailing a pastor God intends to save an entire group of people? Should we pray FOR persecution? I don't believe that's the path either, but rather what Peter did pray for.
Acts 4:29-30: "29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Instead of praying the persecution passes, should we not pray for the boldness to speak God's word even more loudly?
3. Protection from the persecutors. Here's the one with which I struggle the most. I pray continually for protection--for my family, for my friends, for myself. Should be unnecessarily harmed? No. But what is more important? Bolding proclaiming the word of God or living a protected, quiet life? What is God really calling us to do? If we speak the Gospel where it is not to be spoken, we will very likely suffer the consequences. However, when the Sadducees warned Paul and John not to speak any more about Christ they answered.
Acts 4:19-20: "19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Whose consequences do we want to suffer--those imposed by man or those of disobeying God? John and Peter made their decision quite public and it would eventually cost them dearly.
My disclaimer is I am no biblical scholar. I'm a Christian who loves to read the Word and study the Word. These omissions from Peter's prayer convicted me about the way I pray. Could my prayer hinder the work of God? Am I courageous enough to pray for boldness in place of fear? Are my prayers so centered on self that I'm preserving my own life at the cost of keeping others from hearing about Christ?
Peter's prayer is so simple. He wants no fame or fortune for himself, but only to preach the Gospel boldly and to see healing, signs and wonders attributed to the power of Jesus name. Can we pray the same throughout this next year?