6 Oct 2022

What We Pray, When We Pray the Bible

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Acts, Luke, Mission, Prayer, Psalms, resurrection, Spiritual Disciplines

Salvation at the Hour of Sacrifice/Prayer

Luke spent a chapter and half on the salvation of the crippled man (Acts 3.1-4.22). The saved man is a microcosm of what genuine salvation looks like. This man has been “saved” (4.9; Gk) from shackles of death and decay operating in God’s world. The “Jubilee” mission and message of the resurrected Messiah Jesus has saved this man. The Messiah’s mission is bringing healing to God’s wounded creation, the man is Exhibit A. As Peter said, pointing to the man, this man had been “saved” through the name of Jesus the King (4.9-10).

The actions of Peter and John caused trouble with the Sadducees. But Luke has already warned readers that Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection of the body (Lk 20.27).

So Peter, John and the Saved Man are hauled before the court.
They are kept overnight.
They are castigated and threatened to not speak of this again.
But released. (Acts 4.21).

The Way Prays the Psalms

Peter and John go find the disciples (we are not told what happened to the Saved Man). They relate what the Sanhedrin had said. They had been forbidden to preach with the implication being that next time more than a night in jail awaits them.

In response to this threat, Luke tells us that “they all together” (4.23) blended their voices in prayer. All men and women (since males and females are included in Acts 2.17-18). When they prayed, they prayed the Bible (Hebrew Bible/OT). They cry out to the “Sovereign Lord” who has “made heaven and earth and the sea.”

God the Creator is, for Israel, an extremely comforting thought. Psalms, familiar to Jesus and the Way, as the Songs of Ascent directly link the notion of God the Creator to God’s protection and presence. In Psalm 121 Yahweh is the Maker of Heaven and Earth which means he “watches over you” and “keeps” Israel. (See also Ps 124.8; 146.6, etc). Yahweh promises the exiled Israelites that “he who created you” … “Israel’s creator” is the King. This means, again, presence and protection. So “when you pass through the waters … they will not sweep over you … When you walk through the fire you will not be burned.” Because the Creator owns Israel and is with them (Isaiah 43). The Gathered Saints in Acts 4.25ff call out to that Creator God, the God of Israel, because they are about to walk through the fire.

And it is fire. So they pray the Psalms. In fact it is Psalm 2 they utter in unison. The renewed people of God find themselves in the Scriptures of old. The very scriptures that, like Timothy, they had known from childhood (2 Timothy 3.15-17). They pray Psalm 2 (they probably prayed the entire prayer but Luke quotes only verses 1 and 2).

Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
“The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and his Messiah

(Acts 4.25-26 quoting Psalm 2.1-2 from the LXX)

The Bible is the source of prayer. It is the source of what to pray. They are praying the Psalms. Those scriptures are the source of understanding what is happening now and what we are to do now. This is the real authority of Scripture in that it shapes and molds who we are and what we do in the here and the now.

The nations (Romans) and the peoples (Sadducees/Chief Priests) in the persons of Herod and Pilate have both attacked God’s anointed holy servant Jesus and his followers (note v.27).

How Did the Bible, the Psalms, Shape Prayer?

When these disciples prayed the Bible, for what did they pray? First, they are not surprised they are attacked. They knew they would be so because it was in their Bible. If the nations raged against the Lord and his anointed then we will surely not be exempt. And this was genuine opposition from the Powers that Be. This is not someone taking an ad out in the paper or taking away school prayer or calling us names. This is a direct challenge to the Messiah Jesus and the resurrection.

Second. When they prayed the Bible they confessed that the Scripture was true. They quote the psalm and then tell the Sovereign Lord, “it is true” (4.27). They confess that the holy servant/child Jesus was handed over. But this too, took place because their Bible was true. This very Scripture, that they found themselves in, states clearly the powers would make war against the anointed.

Third. In light of the promised presence and protection of the Creator and the truth of the Scriptures they do not pray for the removal of the persecution. They did not pray as I likely would have. They did not pray for deliverance from the challenge at hand. They prayed instead for the power to be bold in the face of those who oppose the Lord and his resurrected Messiah.

So now Master, look on their threats;
and grant that we,
your servants,
may speak your word with all boldness,
while you stretch out your hand for healing” (4.29-30).

They prayed for boldness. Removal of the threat lessens the chance to bear witness. They would be witnesses to the new creation salvation that has broken in through King Jesus and his resurrection. They would be witnesses to that renewed world. So they pray not for the removal of the Sadducees but to be fearless and daring in the face of certain punishment from the powers that be.

Suddenly, Luke tells us, the place they are gathered is shaking and rocking back and forth with wind (pneuma/Spirit). God showed up (in my mind it is reminiscent of Psalm 29 where God’s people are praying and the storm/wind shows up and shakes and quakes the whole house).

Two things resulted from praying the Bible/Psalms:

1) They did speak with boldness in the face of “threats” (v.29) of the powers that be

2) They were united in mission in the face of threats and this unity manifested itself in “nobody said they owned their property” (4.32).

Praying the Bible, especially the Psalms can result in some radical stuff in the life of God’s people

One Response to “What We Pray, When We Pray the Bible”

  1. JT Says:

    Thanks for bringing your comments to the most relevant issue, at least in my opinion. That is, that they sought not deliverance from persecution (and lose their ability to witness), rather, they wanted power to face that persecution. As you noted, they wanted to be bold.


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