“The believer’s prayer” in Acts 4:23-31, is an account recorded of a church congregation praying together and after they prayed, “the place where they were meeting was shaken” (Acts 4:31).
Some misunderstand this event as God primarily showing His strength. But, I believe that God more so shook the walls after they prayed to show His approval and agreement with their prayer. Further, I think God was giving His affirmation on this church’s prayer so Christians can study how the early church prayed and learn principles to apply to their personal prayer life.
First, let’s recount what happened beforehand. Peter and John had been taken into custody by Jewish leaders, imprisoned overnight, and then forced to stand before a Sanhedrin interrogation earlier that day. However, the Sanhedrin “could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened” (v. 21). So, the Sanhedrin sternly threatened them and ordered them not to speak any more in the name of Jesus. The two were then released from custody.
You can read about Peter and John’s experience at this link: Share the Gospel, even in facing fear.
Upon being released, Peter and John immediately went to a gathered congregation of believers and talked about what happened to them. The church listened intently, and after the apostles finished speaking, the church, “raised their voices together in prayer” (v. 24).
God visually showed His approval of their prayer. Therefore, we would do well to study this prayer and extract principles that could more attune our hearts with God and, consequently, enhance our prayer life.
Principle 1: Unity Among Believers in Prayer
The gathered believers were in complete unison as they “raised their voices together in prayer.” This doesn’t mean they recited a memorized prayer. Rather, when the Bible tells us they raised their voices together, it speaks of their unity in Spirit and agreement. Most likely, one or several men prayed and the entire congregation agreed in affirmations with the one praying for the group.
As believers pray alongside one another, it is powerful to sincerely speak in agreement with words such as, “Amen;” “Yes, Lord;” “Let it be so, Father;” etc. while another prays. This is one way of praying in agreement.
Jesus said, “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:19).
Principle 2: Honor the Sovereignty and Goodness of God
Their prayer began by focusing on the supremacy and goodness of God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them” (v.24).
A person (church) who prays with power will usually begin by recognizing the sovereignty, worthiness, holiness, and graciousness of God. Foremost, because He is worthy of all our praise. But, too, this humbles our heart more into reverence and surrender.
To praise and honor the Lord is a powerful aspect of prayer. Jesus, too, gives us this example. In teaching His disciples how to pray, He began, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9).
In fact, one purpose of prayer is to become more focused on God, and less on ourselves. Our hearts are never fully in line with God before we pray but, as we pray, our hearts should become more aligned with His.
Principle 3: Cite Scripture During Prayer
Prayers should rarely be spoken as repetition. However, recalling God’s promises from Scripture and reciting Scripture aloud should be part of your prayer life.
The early church used Scripture while praying. “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 take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed one” (vs. 25-26).
Speaking Scripture when praying is probably one of the most underutilized prayer applications. It should, rather, become a habit to cite Scripture when praying. Scripture is God’s Word, and God’s promises.
We never have to remind God of what He said. That’s not the purpose. We quote Scripture for our betterment and strength. When we stand on what God has already promised, it enhances our faith as we pray. If God has made a promise of provision in His Word, we can be certain it’s in His will.
Conversely, if we start to pray for something that’s not in God’s Word, the inability to recite Scripture gives us better spiritual discernment. If we don’t have God’s promise from Scripture, we need to evaluate whether what we are praying about is in alignment with His will.
Principle 4: Remember that God is in Control
They continued, “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” (vs. 27-28).
The Jewish religious leaders and governmental authorities had conspired to kill Jesus, the Son of God. This had taken the disciples by surprise (even though Jesus had told them beforehand what would happen). It wasn’t what the Jews envisioned for the Lord’s Messiah.
It was, however, God’s foreordained plan. God “gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Things in life rarely go the way we think they should and it can be easy to question God on why things didn’t happen the way we thought they should. Know, though, that God’s plans are always better.
So, surrender reign over to the Lord in prayer. Stand on the sure foundation that, regardless of how things unfold, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Yes, there will be times in our lives that will be painful to endure. But God’s perspective is always on the eternal over the temporary. And, through prayer, we find ourselves seeing things more from an eternal perspective.
Principle 5: Admit Your Fear and Ask for His Strength
They prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your work with great boldness” (v. 29).
God tells us, “fear not, for I am with you.” Yet, we are still clothed in humanity of flesh and blood, so we are afraid at times. We don’t need to try to hide our fears from God. It’s better to confess our fears to Him.
God already knows when we’re afraid. If we have fears, let’s tell Him and ask for His strength. Isn’t that what a parent wants their child to do? Well, God is our Father, our Abba.
As we confess to God that we are afraid, it doesn’t show a diminished faith. On the contrary, it can serve to deeper our personal relationship with God because, to calm our fears, we must become more dependent on Him.
Principle 6: Ask God to Do the Impossible
The church boldly asked, “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (v. 30).
As Christians, we tend to fall well short in what we ask of God. God wants to give abundantly more than what we typically ask of Him. Frankly, a major reason we don’t see God moving more in miraculous ways is because we don’t really expect Him to do it.
But, if our motive in prayer is pure and our purpose for asking is for His glory, our prayers should become speaking back to God what actually originated from God and He has implanted in our hearts.
Nothing that flows out of the mind and will of God is impossible. Therefore, if we have a burden to pray for anything that God has placed on our heart, it’s not impossible. Yes, it might be miraculous. But God doesn’t work in physical realms.
If it is for God’s glory and the building of His kingdom, ask God to do the impossible. Think about Jesus’ ministry on earth. Many of His miracles were performed after someone asked Him to do the impossible.
It is God’s will that Jesus be gloried and men be saved. He has done, and will continue to do, the impossible for that purpose. He wants to do it through His church. He might be waiting for you to ask Him to do the impossible through you or your local church.
Principle 7: Expect God to Answer Your Prayer
“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” (v. 31).
God affirmed His approval for how they prayed, and what they asked. We have this as an example to follow in our prayer life. There is power in prayer!