An old bishop who complained he wasn’t having the same kind of impact as the apostles said, ‘everywhere St. Paul went there was a riot. Everywhere I go they serve tea.’ It wasn’t just Paul. Apostles Peter and John had created quite the commotion as well. The events of Acts 3, the healing of a disabled man, set in motion a troubling chain of events that stretches into chapter 4.
The authorities arrested Peter and John because they were sharing with the people the hope of resurrection through faith in Jesus’ name. The authorities thought they had silenced the movement of Jesus at the cross and now a lame man is miraculously healed in Jesus’ name and Peter and John are preaching and teaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. This revolutionary message threatened the Sadducee’s control over the people.
After Peter and John are released they gather with their friends to tell their story and pray. What did they pray? What would you pray? Luke records that Peter, John and their friends lifted their voices to God and said, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). They don’t ask to be delivered from trouble. They don’t pray for the persecution to go away. They don’t pray to be blessed, to be rich, for things to get easier and they don’t even pray against those persecuting. Instead they pray, Lord, look at their threats and let us go on speaking boldly. Lord, in spite of it all, enable us to keep speaking your message boldly and Lord continue to work powerfully. I wonder if we need to start praying more of those kinds of prays.
This section ends with this, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). This is the confidence we need. The persecution here in Acts 3 and 4 sent the apostles to the scriptures and they cast themselves on God’s mercy and power. As N.T. Wright comments, “the church needs, again and again, that sense of God’s powerful presence, shaking us up, blowing away the cobwebs, filling us with the spirit and giving us that same boldness.”