When You Should Pray to Be Bold, Not Comfortable

Take a cue from Biblical heroes and saints on how to shake things up through prayer.

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Posted in , Oct 26, 2020

Pray for strength not comfort

We want to be like the Biblical heroes and saints of the past, right? Like Abraham and Moses. Or Ruth and Esther. Maybe like Peter and Paul.  

Not that we want to dress like they did, necessarily, or imitate their living conditions (no iPhone or Instant Pot?). No, it’s not their lives we want as much as their faith. Their strength. Their courage. Right? 

If we really want to believe like them and be strong and courageous like them, maybe we should try praying like them. And there’s one case in particular that’s recently challenged me to adjust the way that I pray—not so much in frequency as in content.  

It’s recorded in the fourth chapter of Acts, when the church was brand new. Peter and John had been called on the carpet by the Sanhedrin, the “Supreme Court” of the religious authorities. By the time the hearing was over, the authorities ordered them not to speak or teach about Jesus any longer. Peter and John said they wouldn’t agree to that, and more threats followed, but the two men were eventually released—with the awareness that more preaching in Jesus’ name would be dangerous.  

When they returned to the church and told everyone what had happened, the account says, “they raised their voices together in prayer to God” (Acts 4:24, NIV). 

What did they pray? That’s what’s fascinating.

We might expect them to pray, “Oh God, don’t let them throw us in jail again.” Or “please change their minds.” Or “keep us safe” or “make things easier.” But they didn’t pray any of those things. Here’s what they prayed: 

“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 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 rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against His anointed one.’

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. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:24-30, NIV).

The next verse tells us how their prayer was answered: “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” (Acts 4:31, NIV).

Instead of praying, “Consider their threats and don’t let them hurt us,” they asked for boldness. And God honored their prayer. 

Huh. Whaddya know? That’s not my instinct. It’s not my usual practice. I pray—a lot—for my life to be “easier.” For things to go smoothly for me. For blessing, success and comfort. Most of us do. 

But what if we were more like Peter, John and the early church? What if, instead of praying for easier, we prayed to be better? Stronger? Bolder? For more faith and courage instead of for more comfort and ease? 

Maybe those prayers would shake things up as theirs did.

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