After finally being released from the Sanhedrin and returning to their fellow believers, after being placed in jail and threatened by the priests and told to cease their efforts, the believers prayed together. In this prayer on this occasion, I can only imagine myself praying something like this: “Father, thank you for letting us serve you and for freeing us from that awful situation. Please, we ask you, don’t let it happen to us again. Keep us from being threatened, captured, or hurt. Keep us safe so we can continue serving you.” This seems like a logical prayer and one which many of us have often prayed. We pray for safety, comfort, ease, and smooth sailing in all our endeavors. Surely a decrease in setbacks will ensure an increase in results.
However, this is not the prayer that Peter, John and the believers prayed on that occasion. First, they praised God. After this whole ordeal, before letting out a plea or question, their words were “Sovereign Lord”. Following this praise, they raised the issue at hand and asked for help. However, notice what they did not ask. They did not ask God to remove the problem for them. Verse 29 depicts them praying for God to “consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”
So often we want God to remove the problems. Get rid of the opposition. Clear the obstacles away. But in Romans 8:31, Paul does not state that “if God is for us, no one will stand against us”. He instead says, “If God is for us, who can stand against us?” This is as if to say, “With God, who can possibly hope to stop us no matter what they do.” This idea is best spoken by a pharisee named Gamaliel, a mentor of Paul before he was converted. Gamaliel was not a follower of Christ, but he understood what it would mean for someone to have their efforts backed by God. He addressed the Sanhedrin who were angry to point of wanting to kill Peter and the apostles. He said to them, “Leave these men alone! If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it really is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
While we are praying for God to remove our problems and soften our situation, Peter and John and the believers are understanding the simple truth: if God is on our side, the trials we face are facing up against the God of the universe. And they are fighting a losing battle. Let us pray for God to consider our trials and obstacles, and to enable us to overcome them by His hand and to speak His word with boldness in the midst of those trials.