Our reading for Thursday, June 27, 2019 is Acts 4: 23–31.
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 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? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ 27 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. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 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. -NIV
When we believe God has acted in our circumstance we should always be brought to praise and thanksgiving for what we have seen God has done. At times I have kept a journal of prayer and noted within it when I have believed God has answered prayer. I am not consistent with this as I should because it is so beneficial. I can easily pass from one situation and concern to another and forget what God has done. To periodically review and remember the intersections of God with our lives only serves to strengthen our faith and confidence in God when in concern we call upon God’s help through prayer.
After observing a response by God to a situation you face do you stop to give thanks to God even if the answer was not the one you expected and asked for? Sometimes the response we receive may be only a partial answer or given in a way we did not expect, yet God revealed his concern and presence in our circumstance. There are times I believe we ignore the intervention of God because it was not as we asked. Nevertheless, God has made himself and will be known to us if we only are sensitive enough to see it. Tuning our spiritual sensitivity is a benefit for us to realize God’s partnership with us.
After being released, Peter and John, along with the other disciples they were with, were brought to remembrance in prayer to the promise made in scripture. Luke records that the disciples quoted from Psalm 118, verse 22 in their prayer. God speaks to us through the written Word revealed in scripture. The more we read the greater we can recognize God’s will for us in any given situation. This will only serve to confirm God’s will and deepen our confidence that whatever we face God can and will use for some greater purpose than we anticipate in the moment.
In our study of God’s Word we need to pray the scriptures. We can lift out from what we read a principle that speaks to a circumstance in contemporary news we hear and see, or a situation we face or that someone else faces. The Word we are given may be used in comforting and directing another person struggling over something in their life at the time. The pertinence of the Word may be a source of assurance and comfort for them or provide direction. The fact that we were able to find the connection reassures the person(s) of our concern that they are not alone. Not only do they have God but also a spiritual sister or brother in their corner.
Now while what I have been discussing is advocating for a personal spiritual practice this same discipline can strengthen and deepen the spiritual life of a congregation. Peter and John were gathered together with other disciples, giving thanks to God for securing the release of the two apostles. It was not an individual exercise, but a corporate one, one that would bind the fellowship together as a congregation.
I fear that too often congregations come together only on a surface level without connecting to the power of God. There is need to provide opportunity to share the blessings of answered prayer with one another and pray concertedly for concerns of one another. How this can be done and what setting is up to debate. Most often this is best experienced in a smaller group, but the rewards of encouraging others who are waiting for direction or evidence of God’s presence cannot be overemphasized. We gain strength from seeing what God is doing in the lives of others.
There is the danger of succumbing to the temptation of covetousness where we envy what God has done for others yet has not done for us. However, with transparency with others I have seen those waiting for God to act supported and encouraged by the embrace of others. God answers all prayer, some by ways we expect, some in ways that are difficult to see. God answers prayer at different timing and at other times not at all because God desires that we learn as did the apostle Paul that God’s grace is sufficient for us, for when we are weak it is then we are strong. Only in weakness will we depend upon God to get us through.
I am amazed how God answers some prayers while others he remains silent. I am sure at the stoning of Stephen also mentioned in Acts there were disciples praying for Stephen’s deliverance. It was not God’s will while it was for the release of Peter and John. God be praised for God worked a purpose of blessing for both circumstances. Our prayer is to be thankful for what we receive and comforted from knowing God is working a greater purpose through what we go through when we are fully submitted to God’s will.