Here is a prayer the people of God have prayed, in different contexts, for a long, long time. During their days in Egypt, they prayed, “Deliver us.” During the days of exile, they prayed, “Deliver us.” During the days of Roman rule, they prayed, “Deliver us.” And now here, under threat of a global pandemic, we still are praying, “Deliver us.”
When you find yourself in a season like this, there is usually one thought that reverberates in your prayer life. It’s the desire for relief. For change. For deliverance.
This is a fine thing to pray. We can and we should bear our hearts before the Lord. And yet for the Christian, there is sometimes a better prayer to pray than the prayer for deliverance. It’s this different prayer we see being played out in Acts 4.
Here’s the context: Peter and John, the two big dogs of the early church movement, have been put in jail. And though the authorities couldn’t punish them because of their popularity with the people, they threatened them. Alot. Then they let them go.
So off go Peter and John, back to the fledgling church, and they deliver a report about what they had been told. Here was a moment of difficulty. Of threat. Of anxiety. And, as they should, they all started to pray with one voice. And I wonder what I might have prayed, had I been in that situation:
“God, deliver us from the hands of these oppressors.”
“Remove them from power, and put someone in who is more favorable to our position.”
“Change these threatening circumstances, and give us peace that we might meet freely.”
Again, I’m not trying to evaluate the validity of any of those prayers. The Lord wants us to earnestly cry out to Him in honesty, and there are certainly examples all over the Bible of people asking for their circumstances to change.
But not here. Instead of a prayer for deliverance, this is what we get from the threatened crowd of believers:
“And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness…”
Boldness, not deliverance. Extension of the gospel, not a change in circumstances. Courage, not comfort. Perhaps in some circumstances this is the better prayer to pray. For when we pray this prayer, we are demonstrating our understanding that the way a Christian walks through difficulty is a powerful display of the work of the gospel in his or her life. In the end, this is what we are in this world for – it’s not to bide our time until we receive the inheritance of another one, but to live and speak faithfully. Even – and perhaps most especially so – in the midst of difficulty.
Friends, pray for deliverance. But as you do, consider that there might be another way to pray that magnifies the gospel and the great worth of Jesus in the midst of that circumstance. Sometimes the prayer of boldness is better than the prayer of deliverance.