If you found yourself imprisoned overnight in chains for no reason other than your religious beliefs, and before your release the following day, you were severely threatened to never speak about Jesus again, what would you do? What actions would you take upon release?
Well, I can imagine the first action you might take would be to contact a lawyer. After all, you have rights! You can’t be treated like that! Next, you would probably get on the phone and tell as many fellow-Christians as you could…and they’d help spread the word…and before you know it, your entire church family would know of your harrowing experience.
When Sunday eventually rolls around, I’m sure your situation would be a priority in prayer. No doubt, the congregation would lift up your situation before the throne of God in prayer, but what would they pray? I can image the church would be praying that:
- We would return to a time when we could worship without “fear of molestation.”
- We would pray for changes in our government.
- We would pray that these secular inroads into the “American way” would be defeated.
- We would pray for God’s favor upon political candidates who promised to protect religious freedom, etc.
While up to this point, we’ve just been “imagining,” but the above scenario actually happened to Peter and John in Acts 4. Peter and John were arrested for their faith in Jesus, severely threatened to never speak of him again, and then released. Once released, they met with the church and prayed. But do you know what they prayed for? They didn’t pray for a better government. They didn’t pray for the removal of current politicians for more sympathetic leaders. They didn’t pray for a more tolerant cultural climate in which to live.
Do you know what they prayed for? They prayed for “boldness!” (Acts 4:29). The text doesn’t say they prayed for God to make their circumstances easier, the text says they prayed for boldness to stand up to, and face their ungodly culture.
Today, as we witness our religious freedoms eroding, I’m not suggesting it’s wrong to pray for change. I am saying the change we probably should be praying for is within us and not without. You see, the world will always be the world. Praying to God to make the world adhere to Christian values is probably unreasonable, but praying to God for boldness to face our culture is far more profitable.
Let’s not allow our circumstances to dominate our focus. Whether our government is sympathetic or hostile toward Jesus is not nearly as important as the need for boldness in the lives of Christians.