Acts 4:23-31 (ESV)
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
“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 plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue 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.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
There are two lessons in this passage. First of all, their prayer is terrific and a model for how we should pray. Notice their three-step process. They begin by addressing God properly. Then they describe their situation clearly, even quoting scripture. Lastly, they ask the Lord to empower them to serve Him better. This conforms perfectly with John 15:7.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (ESV)
When we pray we should be ever mindful of John 15:7 and seek this attitude.
The second lesson is in how God answered this prayer. They didn’t specifically ask for another infusion of the Holy Spirit; they asked to be able to, “continue to speak your word with all boldness.” To the extent that this was asking for the wrong thing, it didn’t matter. We make bigger mistakes than that. God expects us to be clueless; sincerity and devotion to His purposes are what’s important.
But, when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
So, being filled with the Holy Spirit isn’t just a one-time deal. This same thing happened to many of them at Pentecost and now it’s happening again. But don’t make the opposite mistake of thinking that being filled with the Holy Spirit is something that wears off after a few hours. When it says that they continued to speak the word of God with boldness, that can’t refer to just the time while they were together.
The request was for long term boldness and that’s what they got.
Our situation isn’t exactly the same – the apostolic age is over – but we can still ask for boldness. His response may not shake the room, but if we are ready to serve Him it will shake us.
We should ask to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a force for His kingdom. But note this – you need to think specifically what you’re going to do with that power and pray for guidance.
God may move your plans around a bit. Letting that happen makes all the difference.
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