23 After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they all raised their voices to God and said, “Master, You are the One who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David Your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot futile things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers assembled together against the Lord and against His Messiah.
27 “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness, 30 while You stretch out Your hand for healing, signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.
What happens when an act of kindness brings negative reactions? Over the years, I’ve met with hundreds of people who have loved the unlovable and been criticized for it. This is a familiar story.
The pattern revealed in Acts 4 continues even to this day. It’s the parent who shows up for their teen’s event and embarrasses the teen by being there. It’s the friend who lends a hand and is criticized by others who misconstrue his intentions. It’s the business that gives shoes away in third-world countries and is ostracized for it because that upsets the status quo.
What’s a follower of Jesus to do?
Peter and John had just returned from a very bold moment. They helped a man, were challenged publicly, and responded boldly. And the people were amazed that such unschooled men could be so insightful. But instead of throwing open the gates of the city or rewarding them with greater influence, they were told to stop. They were threatened.
No one wants the status quo upset.
Verse 24 states their reaction to this injustice was to raise “their voices together in prayer to God.” They didn’t complain. They didn’t whine. They didn’t internalize their frustration. Instead, they met with even more believers to pray.
The prayer itself is a testimony to the sovereignty of God and volitional will of His people. Both work together in perfect harmony.
When faced with such a reaction, some Christians turn into a fatalistic version of Eeyore—a depressed donkey who turns his eyes heavenward and says, “Well, I guess You’re in charge, God.” But this prayer isn’t fatalistic. It’s worshipful. It’s hopeful.
Instead of shrinking back from the negative reaction, Peter and John leaned into it. They prayed for even greater boldness. They prayed for greater healings, signs, and wonders.
If this prayer had a soundtrack, it would be “Eye of the Tiger.” It’s not the prayer of a group resigned to a world that misconstrues even their kindness to others, but instead of a group committed to changing the world through bold witness. This is what a Christian insurrection looks like.
Here we learn the first response should be praying with others. We pray, believing the God who’s leading us knows what He’s doing. We press on because we trust Him who sees all things. We learn to lean forward by being kinder and more intentional, with greater integrity and a plainer proclamation of our hope in Jesus.
- What about you? What’s your reaction when family members think your prayers are really judgments, when your kindness is misconstrued as disingenuous? What’s your reaction when your coworkers are threatened because you are intentionally honest and won’t “play along” with fake reporting or false advertising?
- To whom do you turn to pray with when your actions are misconstrued?
- The Bible is replete with examples of bold moments followed by cries for help (consider Moses and Elijah along with Peter and John). Why do you think there’s sometimes uncertainty after victory?
- What does this story say about the power of a community of faith? What does it say about God? What does it say about the world?