“All the believers lifted their voices together in prayer.”
Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to go wrong?
The day begins normally until you arrive at work and the boss calls you into her office. Grilled for half an hour about a situation that happened the day before, you are truthful and do your best to survive the interrogation. Later at lunch, all the coworkers drill you a second time about what you told the boss and then they share their viewpoint of yesterday’s incident. Compounding the day’s events, the entire situation has put you behind and you need to stay late to make up for the hoopla.
Behind the wheel and headed home, who do you call to download the experience?
In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John find themselves in a similar situation. They were detained and interrogated by the chief priests and elders about the healing Peter and John had done in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Peter and John spent the night in jail and were released the next day based on too many witnesses who saw things differently and the religious leaders feared a riot.
“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them” (Acts 4:23, NIV).
When we are under attack, we need to have Christian friends who can share our burdens. The book of Acts tells us they reported what had happened and everything the chief priests and elders had said.
Then their friends began to rag on the chief priests and talked about what jerks they were. They couldn’t believe how they had made it to the chief priest level and what about those elders? Those elders are nothing but a bunch of right-winged conservatives… or left-wing liberals…
NO! This is not what happened at all. Peter and John’s friends did not respond with character bashing or debates or further processing.
What did Peter and John’s friends do?
“When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God” (Acts 4: 24a, NLT).
Inspired by their immediate response to “lift their voices to God,” what can we learn from their heartfelt prayer?
7 Tips From The Early Church On Prayer
When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. Acts 4:24-30, NRSV
1. Pray together in agreement.
Verse 24 in the NLT says, “they raised their voices together to God.” We are not meant to do life alone but in the context of a community where we walk together through the good and bad.
The NASB says, “they lifted their voices into God with one accord.” The Greek word for “together” or “in one accord” is homothymadon (hom-oth-oo-mad-on) which means unanimously.* They agreed over what they prayed as Jesus had taught them to do. Jesus taught them about the power of praying together with two or more and about the importance of praying together in agreement (Matthew 18:19-20).
2. Pray first with an acknowledgment or praise of God.
They began their prayer first with an acknowledgment and praise of who God is. “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them” (Verse 24). They were modeling the way Jesus had taught them to pray, “Our Father, Who is in heaven, Holy is your name” (Matthew 6:9).
3. Pray using God’s Word.
They used God’s Word to remind God of what he had said, “it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David” (Verse 25). They quoted from Psalm chapter 2. We too can bring up God’s promises as we boldly go before his throne with our request reminding him of his promises and what he said he would do (Hebrews 4:16).
4. Pray and ask God to look at the issue that concerns us.
They pointed out what was evident to God, but in an intimate conversation, there is full disclosure, including details surrounding what concerns us. In verses 27 through 29, they shared their concerns and finished with the ask, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats.”
God desires complete truthfulness from the depths of our souls (Psalm 52: 6). God wants us to be honest and to share what is on our hearts. If it is a concern to us, it is a concern of God’s.
5. Pray and ask God for what you need in the situation to carry out His will.
They asked for boldness to continue to speak the good news of Jesus Christ. This is something they had been commissioned by Christ, Himself to do, but after a night in jail, it obviously was not going to be easy. “Grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Verse 29b).
We have a part in any situation we may be in and undoubtedly need divine help to follow through. Whether it is grace or mercy to forgive and let go, patience to endure the long haul, or wisdom to make a God-led decision, we need to ask God to give us what we need to follow through with what He has asked us to do.
6. Pray last with acknowledging God.
They concluded their prayer with a final acknowledgment of God’s power over theirs. “While you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed” (Verse 30). God is the one who does the work. It is not by our power but his Spirit through us (Zechariah 4:6).
7. Pray in the authority of Jesus’ name.
Peter and John’s whole mess began as a result of healing someone “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Chapter 3-4:22). The interrogation from the chief priests and elders was over “by what power or by what name did you do this” (Acts 4:7)?
The disciples understood the power of healing or preaching or praying in the name of Jesus (Verse 30). Let us be more mindful the next time we pray in Jesus’ name the power invoked.
What if the next time our bad days brought us to call a friend, we could download our heartache, and their first response would be to call on the powers of heaven to intercede on our behalf? What if the next time a friend called us and shared their troubles, we responded first with prayer?
Meditation: Not by my might or power, but by your Spirit through me.
Reflect: What is your go-to after a difficult day? Which one of the seven tips on prayer stood out to you the most? Which one of the tips would you like to focus on incorporating into prayer? Who are the people you can call on who would pray with you? If you can’t think of anyone, begin asking God now to give some people who you could go to for prayer. What is it that you need to ask God for so that you are able to follow through?
Digging Deeper: Acts 4:1-31, Matthew 6:7-18; Psalm 51 (Compare the prayers in Matthew 6:9-13 with Psalm 51 and Acts 4:24-30. What do they have in common? What additional components in prayer are listed in the Matthew 6 prayer and the prayer of Psalm 51?)
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* “G3661 – homothymadon – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (kjv).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 7 Oct, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3661/kjv/tr/0-1/>.
(Bible Translation key: NIV – New International Version, NLT – New Living Translation, NRSV – New Revised Standard Version, NASB – New American Standard Bible)