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. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.
In the last section, Peter and John were arrested, thrown into jail overnight, and then questioned about their activities. They told the authorities that they had healed the lame beggar by the power of the name of Jesus, and were ordered to cease preaching in His name; they refused. After more warnings and threats they were released, and now we see what followed; they told the other believers exactly what had happened and then they had all begun to pray.
Interestingly enough, their prayer contains a quotation of Psalm 2:1-2 in which David seemed to describe the events of not only his day, but the times of the Apostles as well. Certainly, the words “anointed one” in the English could have just as accurately been rendered either “Messiah” or “Christ” in these verses since they all mean the same thing. If we never read any further, we might expect them to ask God to soften the resolve of the authorities so that the believers might not come under persecution, but is that what they asked God for?
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
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. (4:27-31)
After the Psalm 2 quote, they mention that the same kinds of things were going on then as had been going on in David’s time, and then they did something quite remarkable, they asked for boldness in their preaching, not safety. To put it quite directly, they asked God for the courage to preach the Truth in spite of the danger, come what may.
In doing this, they were praying that God’s will would be done, for they had been commissioned to spread the good news of the Gospel, not to live lives of safety and security, and God answered their prayer immediately.
I have sat in church assemblies for decades now hearing prayer for healing, good health, good jobs and safe travels, yet very few for the advancement of the Gospel; I have heard many prayers for relief from oppression or persecution, but almost none for boldness in the face of persecution. Please understand, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the prayers I hear often, yet the absence of prayers concerning God’s will and purpose trouble me.
What is God telling us in these verses, and what will we do about it?
As I survey the times in which we are living, I should think such questions and the answers we give them are every bit as relevant as they were in the first century.