Imagine that your prayers over the past six months were recorded, categorized, and analysed.
What would they tell you about your passions and priorities? Would they reveal a preoccupation with yourself and your immediate family? Would they be mostly about your safety, your struggles, your sins, your stuff? Would phrases like “help me”, “bless me”, “give me”, guide me”, “save me”, “heal me” occur again and again? And what about our corporate prayers in church services and in our Community Groups and Life on Life Groups? Would we see a similar pattern there? What might be MISSING in our prayers? What do we not pray for that the early church did pray for? Can you guess?
The first recorded prayer of the early church is found in Acts 4:24-30. A bit of background will help us appreciate the significance of this prayer. Peter and John had been instrumental in the healing of a crippled beggar at the temple gate called Beautiful. Understandably, this miracle caused a stir in the city of Jerusalem and people came running from all over to see the guy and those who had healed him. Peter wasted no time in grasping the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with the gathered crowd. So many believed, that the number of disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem grew to about five thousand. This greatly disturbed the religious authorities. Peter and John were hauled before the Sanhedrin, the highest religious council in the land, and strictly forbidden to teach or preach in the name of Jesus ever again.
The response of the two to this prohibition is remarkable under the circumstances. They said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). They were then threatened and released. On their return to the other disciples, they held a prayer meeting. What do you suppose they prayed for — protection from further harassment and persecution? No. Here’s what they prayed—
“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“’Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.’
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24-30)
Did you notice what they prayed for? They prayed for “great boldness” in sharing the gospel .
Look how God answered—“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
This tells me that a prayer for boldness is a prayer God delights to answer. In the chapters that follow we see God answering this prayer again and again in the most remarkable ways.
I suspect that the first prayer of the early church—the prayer for boldness in witness—is often the last prayer we think to pray. The prayer for boldness is the MISSING prayer in our lives, yet it is a prayer that God delights to answer.
I urge you to add this MISSING prayer to your “prayer list.” Of course we may and should pray for all the things that concern our lives, but let’s imitate the early church in praying for boldness . . . and see what God will do.