"A wonderful harmony in prayer: 'Strong God, you made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant and our father, David. "Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, people? Earth's leaders push for position, Potentates meet for summit talks, The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers!
"For in fact, they did meet -- Herod and Pontius Pilate with nations and peoples, even Israel itself -- met in this very city to plot against your holy servant Jesus, the one you made Messiah, to carry out the plans you long ago set in motion.
"And now they're at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching you Message as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.'" Acts 4:24b-30 (The Message).
What a prayer! Doesn't sound quite like the sort of prayer God's people would pray today, does it? We would pray something like this: "O God, we are under attack! The devil is attacking us. We bind you, Satan, in the name of Jesus. We take authority over you. You have no power over us so take your hands off us. O God, please get us out of this. In the name of Jesus, amen."
Prayer is a window into our hearts. When people pray together, they get to know one another pretty well. Compare our kind of praying with the prayer of those early disciples. We pray out of despair. Our focus is more often on the problem than it is on God. We rehearse the problem and beg God to intervene to get us out of it.
Remember Joshua at Ai? He was whining at God because Israel had been defeated and some of their men killed. He thought it was God's fault for not supporting them. God's response? "Stop praying! Get up! Israel has sinned."
There is something reciprocal about our prayers and God's responses. Israel's defeat was the result of Achan's disobedience, and prayer was not the solution. The value of Joshua's prayer lay in God's response -- stop praying and do something about the sin in the camp. Perhaps we need to heed the lesson when we are praying about situations in our own countries.
The believers in this incident had it right. They did not interpret persecution as Satan's work against them. They viewed it as God's opportunity to get more glory for Himself by showing His power against the backdrop of puny human opposition. The psalm they quoted contrasted the worst that human power can do with God's response to the rebellion of men and nations. "I have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill..." Psalm 2:6 (NIV).
Their plea was not, "God, get them off our backs," but "God, let's do it even more." What a spirit! They were less concerned about their own comfort and safety than they were about getting the job done. They knew that God was supporting them as they supported him in His intention to make His Son known.
We in the western world need to recapture the attitude of those first followers of Jesus who were so captivated by Him that they disregarded themselves in their partnership with God to establish His rule on earth. They knew that God would take care of their business if they took care of His.
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