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 4:24-30
After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.Acts 4:31-37
Did you notice what happened after this so called inept rambling prayer? We can criticise the prayer all we like. We can debate the credentials or the identity of the one who prayed it. But the bottom line is that our Father in heaven heard the prayer and responded accordingly. Clearly it matters not who prayed it. It doesn’t matter whether he went to an approved Hebrew school or not. It doesn’t matter whether he passed Beth Talmud (the House of Interpretation) or Beth Midrash (the House of Allusion). The fact of the matter is that whoever it was who took the lead in the group prayer time, the thoughts he prayed out loud inspired the others to join forces with him and was used by God in ways that we cannot imagine.
The way Luke has written this account of what happened is fascinating. He drops verse 31 in as a bridge from the detail of the prayer, to the unit which follows to introduce a similar unit to what he wrote at the end of chapter two 32-35). Then he follows that with the two curious verses related to the details of who it was who sold things and gave the money to the apostles for the use of the Christian community. I give you all of this now so you can be working on the sense of all this in the days to come.
Notice the flow of the above verses:
- The Content of the Prayer (24-30)
- Another Outpouring of the Spirit (31)
- The Resultant Effect on the Christian Church (32-35)
- Joseph (Barnabus) used as an example of one who gave money (36-37)
Now why is that? Take time to look at it more deeply.
All I wish to do today is to draw your attention to the positioning of verse 31 and emphasise its contrast with all the verses around it. The fact that it is a stand alone verse highlights the importance of it. The end result of this anonymous person’s prayer / alternatively the collective prayer which all prayed, has an extremely significant result.
“After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.”
Not “after this time of prayer together” but “after this prayer”. It was this prayer which sparked the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” We have discussed already the nature of the words used and I have given you the alternatives of how this prayer might have been prayed. Then Luke tells us very clearly that it was this prayer which sparked the outpouring of the Spirit. As strange as the prayer itself might have been, the end result was that the heart of God was moved to pour out His Spirit on all involved. I think the lesson to be learned here is not to hold back our urge to pray out loud in public because we feel like our prayer is not worthy or we are hesitant to pray so others can hear. The experts can debate all they like about the nature of this prayer and how it is not good Greek and at times didn’t make sense, etc. But the bottom line is the heart of God was moved to action. Take courage in that fact and don’t hold back pouring out your heart to God when you feel moved to do so. Whether in public or alone. Who knows it might spark the next Holy Spirit revival. Just let go of your own inhibitions and let God move in the way He desires through you. The stark reality is that this disjointed, bumbling prayer in the eyes of the “experts” moved the heart of God to action.
Oh, there are many questions which are sparked by this account but the message for us to take from this now is not to be put off doing what you feel in your heart to do, however insignificant or humbling it might seem to be to you. Just let go and let God do what He wishes to do through you.
Now it is the time to ponder the questions you have in your mind as a result of all this and to step back from the details of the text and take in the big picture. Oh, and don’t forget, pray out loud when God prompts you to do so, no matter who is present. Sing out loud, louder than your unbelief!
None of us pray as much as we should but all of us pray more than we think we do.Stanley Shipp
Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.Corrie Ten Boom
PUSH = Pray Until Something Happens.Kezia Debora
The moment you pray, no matter how stumblingly, God sets miracles into motion.Ian Vail
Don’t pray in KJV English unless you are 400 years old. [Make your faith relevant, don’t worry about the words] Ian.Rick Godwin
Prayer is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but earnestness of soul.Hannah More
When you pray are you genuinely crying out to God or are you just talking to hear yourself speak?Anon
Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God.Edwin Keith
The power of prayer does not depend on the one who says the prayer but the One who hears the prayer.Max Lucado