#carmelprays – Acts 4:23-37
Opening Song: Jesus Paid It All
Read Scripture: Acts 4:23-37
A Church that is about Prayer and People
Acts 4:31-34 presents a description of the early church – “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” (v32).
The heart of the early church is manifest in how they (a) supported the persecuted, (b) prayed and (c) had all things in common. And the great grace of God was upon them all (v33). This too must be a pattern for how our church lives out the love of God today, with one heart and one soul.
(a) Supporting the Persecuted – A Oneness with Brethren in Trial (v23-24)
The oneness of heart and soul first manifested in how the early church supported Peter and John amidst their persecution. They were there for Peter and John, and when they were reunited with them, and Peter and John had shared with them about what the chief priests and elders had said to them (v23), the first response by everyone in the early church (not just Peter and John) was to pray: they “raised their voice to God with one accord” (v24).
It’s easy for the persecuted amidst our congregation to fall outside our radar and for the initial response to be in judgment instead of love and support because they might not always be able to be physically present at church (e.g. Peter and John were physically absent during the time they were arrested). How can we show more understanding and more support for our persecuted friends, and to be there for them, and pray for them?
(b) Prayer – a Oneness with God’s Will & Hand (v24-31)
The early church had a heart that was desirous to praise God, to seek God and His strength. Even more amazingly, they had a heart that sought to do His will no matter the circumstances. In the face of persecution, their first thought was not to pray for deliverance from the circumstance, but to praise God (v24-26) and to pray for boldness to proclaim God’s word (v29-30), for they saw how all their circumstances were of the Lord’s hand (v28). How did they pray?
Their prayer follows the pattern in 1 Chr 16:10-11 to:
“Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!”
(i) Praise (v24-26)
Amidst trials and persecution, their first reaction was to address God in praise. This can be seen in how they addressed God as “Lord” and “God, who made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them (v24).”
In our trials, may we also turn to praise, and to view our God as Creator of all things in this world, who is the sovereign Lord of our circumstances.
(ii) Perspective (v27-28)
The early church had a different perspective: they viewed everything as being of God’s hand, and they viewed themselves as God’s servants.
This was manifest in how they did not characterise persecution as trial or persecution per se, but saw that the people had “gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (v28), and that “the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ” (v26).
This is inspiring because in the face of trials, the reaction of many would be to turn to complaining and questioning God as to why He would allow such afflictions (eg. arrests) to take place. In a sense, it’s wonderful that the book of Acts is named that, for it tells us not just of the acts of men who were powered by God, but of how we have a God who moves and Acts in our lives, through all His wondrous Acts.
It may not be our automatic reaction to see such persecution as being directly against the LORD and His Christ, or as part of His hand and His purpose.
But may we choose to see God’s hand, and our identity as His servants, who should seek instead that His purpose be done, and to seek His strength to do His will.
(iii) Purpose (v29-30)
Instead of praying for deliverance, the early church prayed for boldness to do His Will, i.e. to “grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (v29); and prayed that His Work might be done and produce the effect of wonders being done “through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus”.
The people could pray such a prayer that His Purpose be done, because their hearts were not just in oneness with each other, but with their Lord. This is manifest in how their heart is to do the Lord’s work to proclaim His word, and to only do His work in His name. They knew acutely their identities as the Servants of the most High.
The Lord answered their prayer in the next verse 31: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness”, for “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” (v33)
(c) Having all things in Common – A Oneness with Brethren in Need (v32-37)
The oneness of heart was manifest in how everyone viewed the things and resources that God had given to each of them not as their own, but as having all things in common. The power of this perspective is seen in how people committed their resources to be distributed to anyone who had need. The result? There was no one among them who lacked anything.
How do we view the resources which God has given us, and how do we desire to steward them for His glory? More importantly, how do we view our fellow brethren, especially those who have need of these things? Do we have a heart of love for God’s people, a love that would be translated into action?
The early church was birthed through the power of prayer (v23-37). Prayer is as much their beginning (Acts 4:31) as it is their response to circumstances (v24). Prayer was something they engaged in constantly; it stemmed out of a heart that loves God, that seeks Him, and that loves the people around them so intensely that they would want to commit them to God in prayer and to want to have all things in common.
Will we be a praying church powered by love and prayer too?
Will we have a common love for each other?
- How do we treat our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we love them, and are we ready to meet their needs?
- How are we boldly bearing witness of Christ?
- Do we pray for the grace of God to be upon us, and to empower us?
Pray in Response
May we yield our lives to God, and be of one heart and one soul with Him and His people!
“With my whole heart I humbly seek You;
Now use my life, O Lord, I pray.
I yield my stubborn will completely;
May Your commandments light my way.
My life, Lord, is Yours to control;
I give you my heart and my soul.
I’ll seek Your will, never mine,
Rich treasure to find.
Give wisdom to choices I make
Along ev’ry path that I take,
So when I complete life’s race
“Well done, You will say.”
(Lyrics from “My Life Lord is Yours to Control”)
Response Song 1: A Life Is Yours To Control
Response Song 2: A Common Love For Each Other
By Jennifer Lim