Prayer from Patmos
…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. Acts 4:27-30
Reading at Acts chapter 4, you come across these verses amid the prayer of the believers who are gathered under escalating persecution. Peter and John had just been dismissed from an interrogation. These two men lead in the emerging church, writing what is to be inspired scripture, and will continue to suffer greater things for their faith–martyrdom for one and exile on Patmos for the other. Here, the Jewish council had reviewed their activities, and threatened with a cease-and-desist order; no more of this Jesus talk or attributing to Him the working of miraculous things…
Where the chaffing for me really ramps up is not by the ignorance and blindness of leaders in the show-of-force meeting, but in the gathering of the believers with Peter and John upon their release, and what transpires there. We’re reading what transpires there…it is prayer.
I project our present day back into this first-century event, and imagine the response if such a rights restrictive power-against-the-people ruling should occur today. There would be a rush to demonstration marches, penning of snappy chants, public wielding of firepower, passionate and profane venting across every media platform, rampant t-shirt and hat sales, defiant posturing, and probably someone’s going to have their sofa torched.
You understand, I’m just imagining. These would be expected responses from the unregenerate who only know earthly kings and always oppose power, until they wield the power. We should perhaps grant the understanding that God’s people would not respond in such manner to the overreach of a government wanting to be the only voice heard. By example, that might-is-right approach was the situation in Jesus’ day, and He did not lead a rebellion, but a rebirth to all who would deny self, take up their cross daily, and follow Him.
It’s the time of year for having our National Day of Prayer; the first Thursday in this month of May. The roots of this national observance go back to the days of the Continental Congress, and a long line of observances mark the 245 years since its inception. Gatherings of all types in myriad locations are focusing this year on praying for “God’s Glory Across the Earth.” The theme verse is from Habakkuk 2:14. That may not mean much, but coming from an obscure minor prophet who details how God can and does use a wicked nation to punish His disobedient people, it should not be lost on us.
In Acts 4, the church did not plot overthrow or revenge. They did not ask God for ease, comfy days, powers that were sympathetic to the faith, or lightning to consume the wicked “them.” They knew God was using even the hardened to accomplish His will. What they desired and asked for was the continued, confident communication of the gospel through them. That is, they desired strengthening to be faithful in their call, as they knew God would be God in conducting His business.
I find with this Day of Prayer, more a heart’s desire for revival in our land, than perhaps I have ever desired before.
We have sought God’s blessing while continually dismissing His will, His Word, and His ways from our national life. We yearn for ease of life for pleasures and recreation, while accepting abortion, trafficking and vices of the unsaved with nary a tear.
The first church asked for strength to continue on in the strong testimony. Perhaps our prayer should be first for our return to the testimony. A return to “business as usual” seems clearly out of alignment with God’s will for us.
I don’t mean to sound hypercritical or above the argument. I have seen the coolness in my life. The desire for “normal” days and events that are easily planned, managed and resultantly explained. The crying out for natural rhythms rather than supernatural power. In God’s scale, I am found wanting. Where are you?
So I do pray. I read this Word. I strive to listen for God, so that in my quietness I may discern His speaking, rather than dwelling on my many words. I find it hard to cheer about a National Day of Prayer, when it should be a daily thing for this nation, once blessed in the providence of God, and now just like the other nations that squandered their invitation to make His glory known.
This I know: God’s purposes will not be thwarted. He will be exalted in all the earth. One day every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord of all. Some will declare this in great joy, others will admit this in deep anguish and conquered surrender. I want to make His will my priority, for the days as always are evil, short, and foreordained by His immutable counsel.
And this I know: I cannot pray for the “them” revival until there is the “me” revival. And I cannot pray for the unsaved to respond to the gospel, if I am not living out the proof of its residence in me, displayed before this world in its present darkness.
And this I know: The fervent prayers of the righteous are very powerful. The self-righteous only pray to themselves.
Pray, friends, without ceasing. God will do mighty things, in us, and throughout this world.