Perilous times call for purposeful prayers
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “. . . consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 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 4:23-31
Norman F. Burger Jr.
The world news reports are disturbing and all too frequent. Christian churches ransacked and burned. Christian villages destroyed, and the people massacred, raped, or abducted. Christians at schools or workplaces singled out and summarily executed. How much does that bother you?
Are you also bothered by what you see happening in America? Bible-based beliefs are increasingly mocked and marginalized. The voices of those who speak against Christianity and the Bible are getting louder, and their tone is getting more hostile. Have you experienced that hostility as a Christian? Does it scare you? Are you worried about what kind of persecution your kids and grand kids may end up facing one day right here in the United States?
PERSECUTION AND PRAYER IN THE EARLY CHURCH
We could agonize over what we see or what we see coming, withdrawing into our churches to join fellow believers in shaking our heads in dismay and wringing our hands in fear. But that is not what the early church did when it faced persecution. Early church members prayed.
When the disciples Peter and John reported to the believers in Jerusalem that the religious leaders had threatened them with punishment if they did not stop speaking about Jesus, “they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” But their prayer was not a worry-filled “Oh, Lord, what are we going to do?” It was not a fear-filled “Lord, spare us!” Faith doesn’t pray that way.
They addressed God as the “Sovereign Lord” and Creator of everything, reminding themselves that their enemies were puny in comparison. They remembered how the Lord had said in Psalm 2 that it is futile for mere men to try to stand up against the Lord and “his anointed”—the promised Savior.
They confessed that they had seen how true that is in how the Father used the conspiracy against Jesus to achieve his plan to save the world through the suffering, death, and resurrection of his Son. The Father’s plan for them was to spread the good news of salvation through Jesus to the world. So they prayed with purpose, asking the Father to enable them to speak his Word with boldness, despite the persecution they were facing.
And the Father heard their prayer. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
PERSECUTION AND PRAYER NOW
Perilous times call for purposeful prayers. Remember that when you are tempted to respond to all the hostility against Christianity in the world with anxious worry and paralyzing fear. Remember that no force on earth could keep the Father from carrying out his will to send his Son to be your Savior, and no force has to keep you from sharing his message of salvation with others.
Pray that the Spirit enables you to speak God’s Word boldly. Re-devote yourself to hearing, reading, and studying God’s Word. Faithfully receive the Sacrament, where the Spirit comforts fearful hearts and replaces cowardice with courage, conviction, and compassion for the lost.
Contributing editor Norman Burger is pastor at Shepherd of the Hills, Lansing, Michigan.
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Author: Norman F. Burger Jr.
Volume 102, Number 7
Issue: July 2015
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