When the chief priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees realized they could not punish Peter and John for healing a lame man and preaching in the temple, they released them with a stern warning to cease preaching “in the name” of Jesus (Acts 4:18-22). The apostles had already told the council “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20) and so they departed the council virtually at a stalemate. The officials warned them to cease their preaching and they, in response, told the council they would not.
Once freed from confinement, the apostles returned to their own company and rehearsed to them what had happened during the past two days. Their company, with one voice, prayed to God, first acknowledging Him to be Creator of heaven and earth, then stating that the conflict they had just experienced was prophesied by David one thousand years earlier and was certainly an omen of what was to come. They perceived what the Holy Spirit, through the mouth David, had warned regarding those who sought to share God’s message with others. “Why did the Gentiles rage and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed” (Acts 4:25-26; cp. Psalm 2:1-2). The company then acknowledged, “For of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontus Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel foreordained should come to pass” (Acts 4:27f).
Having thus acknowledged that the Holy Spirit’s warning was true (they had just experienced it), they then made three requests of the Lord: “And now Lord, look upon their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants to speak thy word with boldness, while thou stretcheth forth thy hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant, Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).
The apostles certainly knew that because God had made the heavens, earth, sea and all creatures of the earth, and that He never sleeps (Psalm 121:4), He observes all things His creatures do. God already was aware of what the apostles had just experienced. It was not that He was to take knowledge of something He previously unaware of; He was asked to take note and remember these men are His servants, seeking only to do what He had previously commanded them. Furthermore, they were suffering the consequences the rulers had thrust upon them because they had obeyed God. In the course of our own lives we may experience adversities for doing God’s will just as Peter and John. We will certainly want our God to know (although He does) that we are trying to comply with what He wants us to do and we are suffering for His name.
Then they prayed, “Grant unto thy servants to speak thy word with boldness” (Acts 4:29). This second petition is that the Father would continue to provide them strength and courage to “cry aloud and spare not. Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and declare unto my people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1). They had boldly preached in the name of Jesus on Solomon’s porch (Acts 3:12-26), and had further shown this boldness by their demeanor and response to authorities who were sorely displeased by their teaching (Acts 4:13). Still, they were aware that their boldness was the result of God’s aid to them, and they pled with the Father that He would continue that strength because they realized that opposition would continue and grow in intensity if they continued preaching the same message. They would need His added strength in the days to come. Later, Paul, in facing greater adversities that Peter and John in this encounter with the authorities, said with confidence, “I can do all things in him that strengtheth me” (Philippians 4:13). So could they and so can we!
Finally, they asked God to continue testifying through the work they did that He approved both their actions and teaching. “While thou stretcheth forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant, Jesus” (Acts 4:30). Again, this request was one hundred percent in keeping with Jesus’ promise: “And these signs shall accompany them that believe …” (Mark 16:17-20).
“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were gathered together, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word with boldness” (Acts 4:31). Their prayer was heard.
God’s strength for us is much like the power of the battery in our cars. It is always there but the key must be turned on to activate it. Our key is our faith in God’s Word and our asking with the full assurance He will provide the necessary strength for us to do what He commands.