Every time I read the Book of Acts and the history of the early church recorded there, I am amazed at the boldness of the believers. They lived boldly, prayed boldly, preached and shared boldly.
Peter and John were preaching and teaching and healing, all in the Name of Jesus, and seeing unbelievable results. Peter preached boldly and called a group of people a corrupt generation, then told them to repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus. And miraculously, three thousand people were born into the family of God. Then, Peter and John travelled along and, at a gate called Beautiful outside the temple in Jerusalem, came across a guy who had been lame for forty years. And they boldly said, “Pick up your mat, walk.” And he did.
The Jewish religious leaders, in a council called the Sanhedrin, were disturbed because these guys were outside the box of the religious merit system they controlled. Consequently, they arrested Peter and John, put them on trial, and asked, “Where did you get this kind of power and authority? By what name are you doing these things?”
In a move as bold as it gets, Peter and John said, “Let us state clearly, we are doing this in the Name of Jesus Christ, the man that your crucified, but whom God raised from the dead.”
The religious leaders would have loved to keep them in prison, or perhaps even kill them for what they were doing. But because the lame man had been healed, they couldn’t risk a public riot since so many had seen the miracle. Against their wishes, they had to release Peter and John.
This is where we pick up the point of praying bold prayers. “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…Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…. 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 4:23-24, 29, 31)
If they had been fearful, Peter and John could have returned to home base and reported, “Whew, that was a close one! They threatened us, so we can never speak in Jesus’ Name again.” No, instead, their response was like a high-octane, old-fashioned revival service.
“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” Wow, I love this response! There’s something incredibly powerful when believers come together, especially in the face of adversity, and lift up their hearts in prayer to God. Under extraordinary persecution, they came together as one voice and prayed boldly to their Father.
They begin by addressing Him as “Sovereign Lord,” signalling their awareness of His power and authority not just over them but over the Sanhedrin, the city, the whole world, and beyond. It’s not as if God needed them to remind Him that He’s in charge. No, these believers were putting themselves in the right position of worship to a holy God. It’s almost like they were reminding themselves, “God, you are Supreme over all.”
Then they pray one of the boldest requests ever uttered: We’re going to pray for boldness. We are going to ask God to make us bolder. In their prayer they refer to threats, and we don’t know specifically which threats they were talking about. We can only assume it was the threats of being beaten, put in prison, and killed. But instead of praying for protection and safety and a strong defence against their persecutors, they guys prayed, “Lord, enable Your servants to speak Your Word with great boldness.”
Now, if I’m looking on as an objective bystander, I’m likely thinking, “Isn’t boldness what got you arrested the first time?” I mean, how much bolder can you be, right? If it were up to me, I’d advice them to lay low with the whole Jesus thing for a while. Let things cool down and then take it nice and easy and see who’s friendly and who’s not.
Good thing it wasn’t up to me.
Let me ask you: have you ever prayed for God to make you bolder? For most of us, myself included, this is a radical, other-centered prayer. Boldness typically doesn’t help me or make my life easier. It usually only requires more from me than I’m comfortable giving. Boldness is for the benefit of someone else, to help them know the love of God through Jesus Christ. When we’re used to praying mostly egocentric, self-focused prayers, it can be very unsettling to pray for boldness. And yet, if we are the live from our truest identity in Christ, then we must think of others and pray for the boldness to share with them the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Bold praying will automatically lead you to bold living. And, God desires that we live all of life boldly, expectant, anticipating what He is about to do because we prayed boldly and in great faith.