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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Acts 4:22-31 – Seeking the power of God

Peter and John have shared what has happened to them with the church. After sharing the information, the group prayed, and their prayer has many lessons for us.

First, they confessed the sovereignty of God and his almighty power (as displayed in the creation of the universe). It is usually very helpful in prayer to focus on the attribute of God that suits our needs at a given time. The opposition to Peter and John highlighted their weakness, so they resorted to the One who has almighty strength, and praised him for his omnipotence. We may find ourselves in a situation in which we need God’s wisdom or in which we need a sense of his presence. In such times, our prayers should focus on particular abilities of God. Such a definite focus is very pleasing to the Lord, and it may also be a word of encouragement to those who are listening.

In effect, what we are doing when we pray in this way is to argue with God. Job stated in his time of great suffering what he would do if he had access to God. He said, ‘I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments’ (Job 23:4). Mentioning to God his own great attributes is a very powerful argument in persuading him to answer our prayers. It is saying to him, ‘Your power will be praised and magnified if you come for my aid.’

The second detail in their response can be explained by asking two questions, and these questions can be asked by us whenever we face a situation requiring specific prayer. One question is, ‘Does the Bible describe a similar situation to the one that we are facing?’, and the other question is, ‘Did a similar event occur in the experience of Jesus?’ The answer to the first question will give us guidance about praying and the answer to the second question will remind us that the exalted Christ knows by experience what it is like in such a situation and will be able to help us as we go through it. We can see from Luke’s record that both these questions were answered by the passage they chose.

The group turned to Psalm 2. The words of this Messianic psalm enabled them to get a true perspective on what was taking place. It enabled them to see that all events are under God’s control and that all opposition is part of a continued attack on the kingdom of God. This tension of divine supremacy and spiritual warfare, most powerfully seen in the enmity expressed against Jesus during his arrest, is repeated whenever his cause is under attack. They also would have reminded themselves that Jesus knew how much power they would need to deal with these threats from the same authority as condemned him.

In passing, we can note from their choice of passage a very important way in which the psalms help us as believers. There are many benefits from singing the psalms such as knowing that we are singing the same words as Jesus sang when he was here on earth. The particular benefit that I would stress here is that the psalms teach us how to engage in spiritual battles. They equip us for war. The apostles were preparing for the next battle and they did so by singing a military song of the King of Zion which celebrated his triumph over his enemies.

Third, the group prayed for strength and success. What else would they pray for from such a great God? They did not pray for escape from his current providence, but for what was needed in his current providence – strength to continue witnessing with boldness. And they prayed that they would be given more authenticating signs of the exaltation of Christ. The sign of the healing of the crippled man had brought trouble, but they knew he was evidence of the ongoing exaltation of Jesus. They wanted the name of Christ to be exalted through their ministries. This desire is the prominent one in the heart of every true disciple.

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