Two-thousand years ago, as the Church was launched in Jerusalem, a small but dedicated group of believers gathered in an upper room and began to wait. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would come; they just had to be patient.
We don't like to wait, but we like it even less when we are not sure why we are waiting. Jesus promised when the Holy Spirit showed up His followers would receive "power" (Acts 1:8). They would certainly need it. The next thing out of Jesus’ mouth was that they were going to be His witnesses "in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth." If that was true, they would need all the power they could get. The "ends of the earth" sounds a mighty long way off when you've never traveled more than fifty miles from home. And besides, it wasn't the ends of the earth that concerned these believers. Jesus had been killed in Jerusalem, the very city Jesus listed first on his itinerary for their upcoming mission trip.
I’m not sure of everything Jesus’ followers did while they waited on the Holy Spirit, but I’m certain there was a lot of praying. If their prayers were like ours today, they may have prayed for safety, protection from danger, health and blessings. They may have prayed for a change in political leadership or for their culture to be more receptive to their claims about Jesus. That’s how we pray: “Lord, keep us safe, protect us from danger and make us healthy.” If the first believers prayed this way, they were about to be very disappointed. Safety was the last thing God had planned for His church. The political environment was going to get a lot worse. The lives of these men and women were in great danger. Most would suffer terrible persecution and many would be put to death. So much for protection and health!
While we can only speculate about their prayers while they waited, we know exactly what they prayed after the Holy Spirit showed up. In Acts chapter 4 we read this prayer offered by Peter: “And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30).
Did you catch that? Peter didn’t ask for protection or for political deliverance, he asked for “great boldness.” As those early believers asked for boldness, God answered their prayers, and the message of Jesus began to spread like a wildfire. Acts 4:31 ends with this statement: “Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” That is why we have a church today, because the first Christians prayed for boldness in the face of uncertainty.
What would happen if we returned to this early prayer of the church? What if Christians today stopped praying for protection and began praying for boldness? It worked once before ...