Stories of the Transforming Power of Prayer
- Explore examples of how prayer has transformed people's lives
- Believe that the Holy Spirit can transform our lives through prayer
- Hear stories about prayer from your faith community
There are many powerful stories of answered prayer in Acts, from the prayer service at which the object of the prayer, Peter, showed up to everyone's surprise (Acts 12:1-19), to the prayer service at Ephesus (Acts 20:32-38). But the prayer service in Acts 4 brings together many of the elements of prayer we've been thinking about.
Several times the apostles had been brought before the Sanhedrin and threatened for preaching about Jesus Christ. Just previously, Peter and John had spent a night in prison and had been told by the religious authorities not to preach about Christ any more. On returning to their growing community of believers, a prayer service was quickly organized. Their prayer, as reported by Luke, ends with all of them being literally shaken. It is a model for us today.
It begins where all prayer begins, with faith and trust in almighty God. When the believers extol the one who made heaven and earth (v. 24) it's not that God needed to be reminded of this greatness or was in need of some praise. It was to remind themselves of who God is and how great his power is. That's what all praise does for us, it builds faith and trust.
Next, the prayer turns to Scripture, and as is the case so often in Acts, they turn to the Psalms, which many of them would have known by heart. They quote the words of Psalm 2 (vv. 25-26), in which the psalmist depicts God laughing at the kings of the earth as they plot to overthrow his "anointed one" ("Christ" in Greek).
The prayers then draw the obvious parallel between the words of the psalmist and the situation they then faced with Herod and Pontius Pilate, as well as with the religious leaders of the Jews, who sought to destroy God's Christ and now wanted to have them silenced. But they remind themselves that all this happened within the counsel and providence of God.
Then comes the believers' mighty petition: "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness" (v. 29). It's so wonderful to imagine this little, threatened group of Christians boldly asking the Lord to "consider their threats," and open their mouths to "speak your word with great boldness." Their praise of God and their knowledge of the inspired Scriptures had emboldened them to see their situation in an entirely new way. They were not a threatened minority, but people doing the will and spreading the word of the almighty God.
They did not go on to ask for the destruction of their enemies as might be expected, but instead asked for the power to perform "signs and wonders" in the name of Jesus so that his healing power might be displayed alongside the destructive power of their enemies.
"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken" (v. 31). We don't know exactly what that means, but we have no reason to doubt it was something they all physically felt as the power of the Holy Spirit filled them again as it did on Pentecost.
Here we see a mighty kind of prayer that instills faith in God, evokes God's own word, and boldly claims God's grace and power for the coming of his kingdom. May our lives and churches be shaken by such prayer today.
What strikes you most about this prayer?
What made the believers so fearless?
What’s the most powerful and transforming experience of prayer you have had?
Take the time to review this unit on prayer by seeing its various elements in this story from Acts 4.
We sometimes think that experiences like this have faded away over the years since the days of the early church. Is there any reason to think that our prayers today cannot be as powerful and effective as this?
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