“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, but stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” — Acts 4:29-30
I keep reading of prophecies, or at least predictions, that American Christians face persecution like it has never happened here before. Quite a variety of people have written about it, and they offer a variety of evidence. Frankly, the writers exhibit quite a wide range of credibility, too.
As I read this passage from Acts, it struck me that, while I have no idea how likely we are to face systematic persecution, the Bible has already told us how to face it. Perhaps some individuals are already threatened in some way on a smaller scale.
Peter and John had healed a lame man and publicly proclaimed that the miracle took place by the power of Jesus’ name. The temple police arrested them and hauled them before the Sannhedrin. There, Peter said that the power to heal came from Jesus, “whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (4:10).
He addressed the most powerful men in his society and as much as called them liars. The official story, of course, was that Jesus’ tomb was empty because the disciples stole the body. Of course, if that were true, they could have produced evidence and shown Peter to be the liar.
Instead, they could only order Peter and John not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus any more. Peter and John responded with a bold refusal that must have seemed to the Sannhedrin the height of bad manners, insolence, and disrespect for authority.
On the other hand, they could find no politically safe means of punishing them. They released them with threats. Just as they had eventually found a way to execute Jesus despite his popularity, they would find a way to make trouble for his disciples in the near future.
Peter and John left the temple and immediately called a prayer meeting.
the content of the prayer is most instructive. They did not pray for a change of government. They did not pray for any condition that would make their ministry more comfortable.
Instead they prayed for boldness to meet the threat. They prayed for the power of the Holy Spirit to back up their words with signs and wonders in that forbidden name.
Protest rallies, political campaigns, talk radio and other mass media may all have their proper place, but the early Christians did not even think of whatever analogous activities were available to them.
They prayed for boldness in the face of threats. They prayed for the Holy Spirit to do what they could not humanly do on their own. Whether persecution is coming to America or not, I hope all Christians–and especially those who are most politically active–are doing the same.