Praying the Apostles’ Prayer
You’ve heard of the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. But have you ever heard of the Apostles’ Prayer? Actually, the “Apostles’ Prayer” is not a technical term, which would explain why you’re not familiar with it. Instead, it’s my description of the one and only time that the Bible records a prayer prayed jointly by these early Church leaders. We can learn a lot from it for ourselves today.
In the fourth chapter of the book of Acts we read that there was government persecution of the believers, in this case, the Jewish leadership imprisoning the Jewish apostles. This persecution was the result of powerful miracles being performed in Jesus’ name and thousands of Jewish people putting their faith in Him as Messiah and Lord.
In order to “to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people” these governmental leaders decided that “we must warn them [meaning the apostles] to speak no longer to anyone in this name [meaning the name of Jesus]” (Acts 4:17).
What The Apostles Prayed When They Faced Persecution
Here’s what happened next:
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, “you made the heavens 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 rise up and the rulers band 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 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)
Many Persecuted Believers Still Pray Like This
We can learn a lot from this prayer, especially as resistance to the gospel increases in our country. Believers in other countries, where following Jesus can literally cost you your life, have prayed like this for many years.
First, there is the focus on who God is — the Sovereign Lord and Creator of all things. He is the only true King, and no one can thwart His will. Whole nations are like a drop in the bucket to Him. How much less little human beings who strut and boast! Only God is God.
This is a perspective we always need to keep front and center. All earthly kingdoms will one day fade away and disappear. Only God’s eternal kingdom will stand!
Second, even when human beings, including kings and governors, conspired to crucify Jesus, they were only doing what God had pre-ordained them to do. While they acted freely and of their own volition, they were unknowingly part of a larger plan — God’s plan to save the world.
This reminds us that what Satan or society or individual people mean for evil, the Lord can turn for good.
Here, human beings joined together to commit the most outrageous act of all time — the crucifixion of the Son of God. Little did they know that their evil actions were being used by God to make salvation possible to all mankind.
What They Didn’t Pray
Third, notice what the apostles prayed. They asked their heavenly Father to take notice of the threats against them, but they did not call down curses on the misguided Jewish leadership nor did they ask God to destroy them.
Instead, they prayed for two things: great boldness to speak God’s Word and the Lord’s miraculous confirmation of their message preached in Jesus’ name. That was it!
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They didn’t pray for the persecution to stop.
They didn’t pray for new governmental leaders (although it’s fine to pray for their salvation, as per 1 Timothy 2:1-4).
They simply prayed for courage to declare the message fearlessly, and they asked the Lord to confirm their message with miraculous signs following.
Let’s Follow Their Lead
We do well to follow their lead, praying for holy boldness and for a fresh infusion of the Spirit.
After all, only days before, these leaders had been powerfully filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the Jewish Feast of Weeks, speaking in new languages as a result (see Acts 2:1-4). They were also empowered to work miracles, resulting in the healing of man born lame (see Acts 3).
Now, just days later, Acts records that, once again, they were “filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word boldly.” So powerful was the visitation that the very place where they prayed was shaken.
To say it again, we do well to follow their lead.
This doesn’t mean that we drop out of the political system or disengage from the society, as if our good works and godly influence were inconsequential.
But it does mean that we fight God’s battles with God’s weapons — the Word of God and the Spirit of God — understanding there is nothing more powerful than the gospel and nothing more irresistible than tangible miracles performed in Jesus’ name.
Shall we pray the Apostles’ Prayer together now? And shall we act on it as the Spirit empowers?
This is how our nation will be changed. This is how America will be shaken for the glory of God.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is The Political Seduction of the Church: How Millions of American Christians Have Confused Politics with the Gospel. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.