It wasn't easy being a Christian in the early Church; opposing established religious authorities is never easy and God's leaders felt the heat of jail.
On one occasion priests, the captain of the temple guards presently on duty, and Saducees arrested Peter and John. They retaliated against Peter's extemporaneous sermon on the temple complex following a man's healing (Acts 4.1-3). After spending the night imprisoned, the two apostles gave a good witness before the Sanhedrin. Wesley comments on this event in his Explanatory Notes:
So wisely did God order, that they should first bear a full testimony to the truth in the temple, and then in the great council; to which they could have had no access, had they not been brought before it as criminals.They were threatened and released (Acts 4.4-22). Once released the men go to their fellow Christians and an impromptu prayer meeting begins. Listen to the words:
"Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'-- for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4.24b-30 ESV)The Congregation, motivated by external circumstances (through the Spirit's work), breaks out into prayer. Note, however, that they don't ask to be relieved of the pressure. Instead, they pray for God's involvement in their cause with a new zeal and power.
God answered their prayer. Luke records the result:
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4.31 ESV)Speaking of this infilling, Adam Clarke elaborates in his Commentary:
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost - And, in consequence of this, they spake the word of God with boldness; a pointed answer to a second part of their request, Act 4:29. A right prayer will always have a right and ready answer. Though these disciples had received the Holy Spirit on the day of pentecost, yet they were capable of larger communications; and what they had then received did not preclude the necessity of frequent supplies, on emergent occasions. Indeed, one communication of this Spirit always makes way and disposes for another. Neither apostle nor private Christian can subsist in the Divine life without frequent influences from on high. Had these disciples depended on their pentecostal grace, they might have sunk now under the terror and menaces of their combined and powerful foes. God gives grace for the time being, but no stock for futurity, because he will keep all his followers continually dependent on himself.This example parallels the Old Testament examples already seen on last Saturday's blog entry.
God's prompting → Prayer → God's action → human reaction
This is the way to a church's empowerment, a minister's empowerment or a Christian's empowerment.
Keep praying. God will act. You'll react.