“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness...” -Acts 4:29
Being a witness to Christ looks a lot different in 21st century America than it did in the 1st century Mediterranean. We are rarely asked to make the same sort of sacrifices that the initial disciples of Jesus had to make. In the above Scripture passage the apostles are gathered together to pray after Peter and John had been taken before the Jewish council. The council ruled that Peter and John were no longer allowed to speak the name of Jesus or teach about his life. Christianity was seen by many in Jewish and Roman leadership as a rebel cult movement, so Christianity was not very tolerated. Soon after this, in Acts 6, Stephen is stoned for preaching about Jesus.
If you were met with this kind of opposition here in the United States (or wherever you might live, for our followers outside of the US), how would you react? I see many people praying fervently for comfort. When people are sick, we pray for their pain to go away. When people are going on a trip, we pray that they would be kept safe. When people are met with opposition, we pray for the opposition to go away. These are not bad things to pray for. However, when the apostles were taken before the Jewish council and told not to preach, they gathered together and prayed for boldness to continue speaking the name of Jesus in the face of opposition. When the apostles came upon those that were sick, they did not pray that the person’s sickness would be taken away, they spoke the name of Jesus over the sick person and the person was healed.
We do not need to stop praying prayers of healing or safety, but we need to focus our prayers on the one thing that can enact spiritual change in this world--the name of Jesus.
“Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.” (Luke 12:4b-5a) Do not fear what this world will do to you. Instead, pray for boldness and speak the name of Jesus!