As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— You spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, Your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the LORD and against His Messiah.’
“In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, Your holy servant, whom You anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will. And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, Your servants, great boldness in preaching Your word. Stretch out Your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”Acts 4:23-30
What actually happened when they prayed together? The alternatives are:
- 1. One person prayed on behalf of all those gathered and the others joined in with empathy, expressing similar thoughts in their own words as they came to mind. On occasions just listening to the one praying and giving silent or voiced “amens” to those parts of the prayer they agreed with.
- 2. They all prayed focused on the same topic or similar thoughts, wanting the same outcome. They either prayed out loud or some prayed quietly in their own minds but in accord with the voiced thoughts of others as they heard things which reminded them of other things to pray.
- 3. They all prayed together out loud at the same time in one accord. In other words, all praying similar things with a common purpose. Responding to the threat of the Council in their own way but expressing similar ideas and responses.
- 4. They prayed simultaneously at the same time, inspired by the Holy Spirit to be of one spirit.
I asked the question in the previous Gem what “with one impulse” means? The sense of impulse here more likely means those moments when the Holy Spirit brings something to mind spontaneously to pray and we find we are all in one accord praying the same things. It is Spirit-led praying but with each person expressing the ideas in their own way and their own words. I perceive this is the way in which prophecy came to the prophets of old. The ideas or inspiration coming from God but the words and the thoughts expressed by the person speaking (or writing) in their own way and with their own cultural background. I.e. Leaving room for individual expression.
- 5. They opened their mouths and all prayed the same words at the same time. In other words, the words recorded in the prayer found in Acts 4:24-30 below were spoken by everyone gathered there, as a result of the Holy Spirit coming upon them and having them utter the same words.
Do you notice I have arranged the descriptions of the possible ways in which this prayer was prayed in ascending order of the miraculous? Each level described above would require a greater and greater degree of Holy Spirit involvement. The last one is the most far fetched and rather difficult for me to accept as the explanation for what happened that day. All of the others I have experienced with the exception of this last one. The last one lies in the same realm of the fictitious story (or fable) that is told related to how the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament came about. The story goes that 70 (or 72) translators were locked into individual rooms and told to translate the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. The miraculous outcome was that all translators ended up with the same text after just 72 days that agreed word for word with all the others. It’s a miracle. Yeah right.
I don’t believe that for a moment. Neither do I believe that is what happened here with the prayer that was prayed. That stretches the bounds of credibility too much for me. Oh, it’s not that I can’t believe God could do that. He can. I feel if that is what had happened there would be more fanfare about it in the text of Luke’s account. We would have been told more clearly that was what happened. I don’t think it happened that way. I suspect we are left with a choice of alternatives 1 – 4. You decide which one you think best describes what happened, dependent on your experience and ability to accept the involvement of the Holy Spirit in increasing measure.
I told you also in the last Gem that after we had addressed the nature of this togetherness and this prayer, that we would look at the content of the prayer that was prayed.
The Content of the Prayer in question:
“O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS? ‘THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’ For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (NASB)Acts 4:24-30
“O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them, You spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, Your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the LORD and against His Messiah.’ In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, Your holy servant, whom You anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will. And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, Your servants, great boldness in preaching Your word. Stretch out Your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (NLT)Acts 4:24-30
“Strong God, you made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant and our father, David: Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples? Earth’s leaders push for position, Potentates meet for summit talks, The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers! For in fact they did meet–Herod and Pontius Pilate with nations and peoples, even Israel itself!–met in this very city to plot against your holy Son Jesus, the One you made Messiah, to carry out the plans you long ago set in motion. And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (MSG)Acts 4:24-30
Notice I have given you three versions of the prayer. I am doing what I tell my students in Deeper Bible to do – Take a Literal Version, a Dynamic Equivalence Version and a Free Translation and lay them side by side and look at the differences. Now take time to think about this prayer for yourself and see how it strikes you given the scenarios I have painted above as to how this prayer may have come about. There are some curious aspects to it. There are also some inspiring aspects to it. Take the time now to ponder the prayer before the next Gem.
Prayer: Don’t give God instructions – just report for duty.Anon
Courage is fear that has said its prayers.Anon
Want to worry less? Then pray more. Rather than look forward in fear, look upward in faith.Max Lucado
Jesus immersed His words and work in prayer. Powerful things happen when we do the same.Max Lucado
If you spent as much time praying as you do complaining, you’d have a lot less to complain about.Rick Warren
Action without prayer is arrogance; prayer without action is hypocrisy.Jose Zayas
If you can’t get someone off your mind – pray for them – you may be the only one that cares enough to do so.Anon