Act 04:23-33 | When the Church Prays

Text: Acts 4:23-33

If you study the history of revival, you will discover this undeniable fact: In the recorded history of the church there has never been a mighty outpouring of the Spirit in Revival which did not begin in the persistent, prevailing prayer of a desperate people. Revival has never come because men “planned” it and put it on the calendar.


“The place was shaken where they were assembled together.” This expression symbolizes God’s presence and activity. You’ll find a similar phrase in Acts 16:26. Imprisoned, Paul and Silas conduct a midnight prayer and praise service and “suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken…”    This is a manifestation of the presence of God. It is God manifesting Himself, letting the people know He is present and has the situation under control.

But, you say, isn’t God always present when two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name? Yes, but God being present doesn’t necessarily mean we perceive His presence. Jacob could say of Bethel:  “Surely God was in this place and I knew it not.”

When the church goes to its knees in real prayer, the presence of God is perceived. Suddenly we know He is with us, working, moving, answering.

We must pray in unison. They were all there and they were all doing the same thing. It wasn’t just the apostles who prayed. They all prayed. Here was a group of believers concerned enough to gather in one place for one purpose—to pray. This is a testimony to united prayer.

We must pray in unity. “They prayed with one accord.” Not only were they all there and all praying but they were all praying for the same purpose. There wasn’t a man over here praying for his pet project and another huddled in this corner praying for his pet project. They were gathered in unity with one heart and one soul. It reminds me of the verse in the Old Testament that tells us that on a certain day all the men of Israel came together with one heart to make David king. That’s the kind of praying that shakes the place. When God’s people come together with one heart to make Jesus king! When all our different little concerns are thrust aside and our hearts flow into one main stream . . . that’s when the presence of God is manifested and people are conscious that God has taken the field.


“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” Upon the conclusion of their prayer the Spirit of God filled every believer gathered in that room. “They were ALL filled,” the record states. Not just the apostles, but every member of the church. There had been a filling on the Day of Pentecost but the church cannot operate on past experiences. The church’s experience of God must always be fresh. Every new task demands a new filling.

There is something remarkable about this incident. As a result of their praying they were filled with the spirit, but did you look at the prayer closely? The Holy Spirit isn’t even mentioned in the petition. They didn’t pray to be filled but they were filled.

I believe if we examine the content of their prayer we’ll discover what kind of praying results in the full­ness of the Spirit.

1. We must recognize God as Sovereign. In verse 24 we have these words: “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.”

The word translated Lord here is rare. It is not the same word rendered Lord in verse 29. This is an extremely strong word meaning despot, one who rules with absolute and unrestrained authority. Omni­potence is in the word.

This is where they started—not with the threats of the enemy but with the absolute sovereignty of their God. And that’s where victory always begins—with the recognition that God is our Sovereign Lord.

His Sovereignty is seen in His creation of all things. They prayed . . . “Thou art God, which has made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.

They acknowledged God as creator of heaven and earth and the sea, and “all that in them is.” Why? Because they were having problems with some of the “all that in them is.” They recognized that the Sanhedrin were creatures and that their God was the Creator. They looked beyond the creation to the Creator, beyond the visible to the invisible. You might say they were telling God on them. Part of the creation was troubling them and they were appealing to the Creator.

But His sovereignty is also seen in His Control of all things. Look again at their prayer.

Verses 26 and 27: “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.

For of a truth against the holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together.”

What a formidable host that gathered against Christ! And what did these enemies of Christ come together to do? Look at verse 28. It’s tremendous.

“For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel DETERMINED BEFORE TO BE DONE.”

These persecuted believers looked back to the darkest day of their lives—the day their hopes and dreams disintegrated with the death of Christ—and saw God in charge of it all. And if it was true with the crucifixion of the Lord how much more with the persecution of His disciples. What a display of His absolute sovereignty!

2. We must recognize ourselves as His servants. In verse 29 they refer to themselves as servants, bond-slaves. This was a prayer of submission. They didn’t complain about the circumstances or call down fire upon the Sanhedrin. They didn’t ask God to move them to a more favorable situation! They simply asked God for more of what got them in trouble in the first place— boldness.

(a) This is submission to the God-allowed circumstances.

(b) And then there was submission to the God-appointed commission. The point of the whole prayer is that they would have the boldness to continue speaking the word and that Jesus would be glorified. And that was what God called them to do in the first place.

Now let’s put it all together. In their prayer, which brought a fresh supply of the power of God they acknowledged God to be their sovereign Lord and submitted to Him and His redemptive purpose. And any Christian who recognizes and submits to His Lordship will be filled with the Spirit.

When the Holy Spirit finds a Christian who wants what He wants they “get together.” The Spirit is interested in only one thing—glorifying Jesus as Lord and Savoir. And He is ready to empower any Christian whose sole desire is to see Jesus glorified in his body.


“And they spake the word of God with boldness.” There is a chain reaction here. When a church is filled with the Spirit it will inevitably speak the word of God with boldness. You cannot divorce the fullness of the Spirit and witnessing. The power of God is given to accomplish the purpose of God. And unless we are willing to be instruments of His purpose it is useless to pray for his power. Witnesses aren’t made by training programs. Such programs are good and may teach a man how to witness but they will not make him a witness. Only the compelling power of the Holy Spirit can do that.

1  The obligation to witness. Verse 33 says they “gave” witness. The word translated “gave” carries the idea of repaying a debt, fulfilling an obligation. The fullness of the Spirit awakens a man to his sense of obligation; it makes an honest man of him and an honest man always pays his debts.

2. The operation of this witness. “They spake the word of God with BOLDNESS.” Boldness is one of the great words of the New Testament. God uses this word to characterize the lives and ministry of the New Testament Christians.

3. The object of this witness. They gave witness of “the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” The object of all our witnessing is that Jesus is Living and Jesus is Lord. And this brings us right back where we started. When the place is shaken and the presence of God is perceived it is easy to convince men that Jesus is living and Lord. When the Philippian jailer stood amid the rubble of his demolished jail and heard Paul and Silas praying and praising and saw all the prisoners still there, he was convinced and cried, “What must I do to be saved?” He wasn’t a prospect for the God is Dead movement! He had perceived the presence of God.

The church must go to its knees. Spiritual revival and national survival demand it. I think we ought to consider what it was that brought the church in Acts 4 to its knees—active opposition to the Gospel. The American church has known little of this and perhaps in our complacency we feel no desperate need to pray. It may be that God will have to allow persecution and opposition in order to get us on our knees in persistent and prevailing prayer. But whatever it takes, it will be worth it.

©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2003

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