A lesson in prayer from the apostles (Acts 4:23-31)

Acts 4:23-31

Pray we should. But how should we pray. Are there right and wrong ways? I think there are. Many give up on prayer because no one has ever taught them how to pray. Though not exhaustive in the least, the apostle’s prayer in Acts 4:23-31 gives us some pointers.

Many people start prayer with needs, wants, or concerns. However, effective prayer does not start with us, it starts with God. The apostles started their prayer with, “Sovereign Lord, you made the sky and the earth and the sea and everything in them.”

They called God “Sovereign Lord.” We get the English word “despot” from the same Greek word used in the original Greek. Despotism characterizes a terrible quality in humans, but when it comes to a good, just, and gracious God, despotism represents exactly who we need God to be. God absolutely rules over the world. Everything that comes to pass comes to pass because he allows it in his absolute governance. Even those things that grieve God, only happen through his providence.

In life we sometimes feel like the disciples when the winds and waves pounded against their ship. Jesus was asleep in the stern, and they feared they would die. They did not know he allowed the storm to teach them something wonderful about himself. A good, just, and gracious God has his reasons, even if they are not obvious at the outset of our pain.  

Space does not allow us to comment on God as creator, but already you see how prayer shifts the perspective from ourselves to God.  

Second, the apostles prayed with Scripture in mind. If you open your Bible to read verses 25-26, you will notice the apostles are simply praying back to God his own word and reminding themselves of that word when they pray. Charles Spurgeon said, “It is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until at last you come to talk in scriptural language, and your spirit is flavored by the word of the Lord, so that your blood is bibline and the very essence of the Bible flows through you.” Praying back Scripture to God reframes our understanding of the situation.

Space does not allow us to go into every aspect of the apostle’s prayer here. Nevertheless, already we see how prayer changes our perspective and in changing our perspective changes our response to the external stimuli of this word. Pray we should. Learning to pray God-centered and biblically allows us to suck the marrow from the holy preoccupation of prayer.

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