Make Me Bold |02.25.24| Dangerous Prayers pt.1
Drew Williams   -  

Acts 4-5

Pastor Drew Williams


I want to start with a quick show of hands: how many of you believe in the power of prayer?

Now, how many of you think you don’t pray as often as you should?


[SLIDE 2] lower third blank

Why is that? Why is it that we KNOW that prayer is a good thing that connects us to God and helps us see how he is at work in us and through us, and yet we don’t pray as much as we think we ought to?


For many people, and maybe this is you, they don’t pray as much as they think they should because they think they aren’t very good at it. Maybe that’s because they never know what to say, or because they had a bad experience praying with other people and froze up when it came to their turn.


When I was in youth group, we would close in prayer by holding hands around the circle, and the rule was when you were done with your prayer, you would squeeze the hand of the person next to you to tell them it was their turn. And there were some people who would get their hand squeezed and immediately pass it on to the next person by squeezing their hand. The prayer “turn” would skip whole sections of people that way because people didn’t think they were very good at prayer and they wanted to stop holding clammy hands with everyone.


Other times, we hold ourselves back from prayer, because we think we don’t know the right way to do it, because we’ve heard some other people pray, and it seems like they are a professional pray-er.


You know the type of person, who opens with “Oh, most heavenly Father, we beseech you to hear our requests…” And then they throw in a couple Bible verses, “as it says in Psalms 32, all who are faithful are to offer prayers to you, so we lift these up now…”


And the rest of us are standing around wondering if we could ever sound that impressive and making the decision to never pray again until we have the whole Bible memorized.


Many of us hold ourselves back from prayer because we think we’ll look and sound dumb, or we think we need to learn more first.


But regardless of why we don’t pray as much as we think we should, I still wonder if the times we DO pray… are we doing what prayer is intended to do?


Because most of the prayers I heard growing up fell into the categories of “help” and “please.”


“God, help ME…” “please, God, do this for ME…”

And it’s either focused on us, or its just a SAFE prayer. “Be with us, God…”   “Protect us God…”   “Bless us God…”


It’s these safe words that don’t really require anything from us. You can pray a safe prayer like that without actually being challenged in your faith. Which means praying a prayer like “Be with us, God…” doesn’t require you to TRUST that God is with you.


And the point of following Jesus isn’t to learn how to say the “right” words. The point isn’t to learn more knowledge that puffs up our brain.


The point of following Jesus is so that we are opened up to him so that we can be TRANSFORMED by him, so that he can help us change to become more and more like him.


We want to be transformed by Jesus, together, for others, so that we can experience the fulfilling and abundant life he offers through joining him in his work.


So today, we’re starting a series called “Dangerous Prayers,” because we don’t want to pray “safe” or “boring” prayers. We don’t want to just sound “important” or “smart”. We want to pray to God, we want to be in constant communication with God, in a way that can actually change us and grow us.


And those prayers are dangerous, because we might not get to stay in our most calm and comfortable life. Praying these types of prayers will cause us to follow Jesus into situations that will stretch us. They will cause us to follow Jesus in ways that grow us.


They will cause us to follow Jesus in ways that WILL transform us to be more like him, to love more like him, and to do the things he did so that more and more people can receive his grace and love just like we have.



So let’s open our Bibles to Acts chapter 4, which can be found on p92 of the NT in your black, seat-back Bibles. We’re actually going to be looking through all of chapter 4 and chapter 5, but we’ll start with just reading a section of it.


This picks up very soon after Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. And then he was raised back to life, teaching his followers, and giving them (and us) his command to help others follow him as they go along in their daily lives, to make disciples, to become apprentices.


And Peter and John are preaching in the temple courts about Jesus and his power and the fact that he is God and he is the way and the truth and the life. They are preaching to a large crowd who had gathered, because they had just prayed for God to heal a man who hadn’t been able to walk for almost 40 years.


So this miracle has happened, people are gathering around, wondering who is so powerful to do that, and Peter and John are taking the opportunity to make sure that all the glory and attention doesn’t go to them, but they are pointing people to Jesus, because he’s the true source of the healing. And now let’s pick up there in Acts 4:1…

[Acts 4:1-13]



The priests, the captain of the temple, the religious group called the Sadducees, they are all furious because of the crowd that is gathering around Peter and John. Our text says “annoyed” but a better translation would be “greatly disturbed.”


Because they thought that Jesus was a false teacher, a cult leader. He claimed to be God, and they thought that meant that he was trying to lead people away from God, away from the traditional ways of worshiping God through the temple system.


[SLIDE 5] blank

They had squashed that cult uprising when they crucified Jesus, but then the body went missing, and Jesus’ followers started spreading stories that He had overcome death and proved that he was God.


And here they were, gathering a huge crowd in the temple. So they arrest Peter and John and put them in jail overnight to sort it all out in the morning.


And the next day, they set up a trial to question them, “who do you think you are? Who gave you authority to set up an impromptu teaching session yesterday? How in the world did that man get healed? What witchcraft did you use? Which magical name did you utter?”



And our text tells us that Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit when he answers. This is a direct fulfillment of what Jesus said would happen to his followers. He knew if they were to continue to be involved in his mission of radical grace and transforming lives, they would come up in opposition against the way of the world.



But he promised that his followers would never be alone, and would never be expected to figure things out in their own power. No, they just needed to trust him, and submit themselves to his spirit at work in them, and they would be helped with what to say.



So Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit, and he begins to speak to all the religious rulers, “Let me make it clear…this man was healed by the authority of the name of Jesus the Savior from Nazareth, whom YOU CRUCIFIED, but whom God raised from the dead.”


I can barely believe this! Peter and John just witnessed a MIRACLE, and their little preaching session gathered a crowd of 5,000 people, but it caused such an uproar that they got thrown in jail.


[SLIDE 9] blank

And now, they are being questioned by some powerful and not-too-friendly religious rulers. And I can totally see a viable way to answer the questions is to try and smooth things over and apologize to whoever you need to apologize to so that you can GET OUT and get back to the incredible opportunity to teach and preach to this group of 5,000 new believers.


They’ve got an opportunity here! Who cares if they have to take the gathering outside of the temple? Say what you need to say to protect yourself so you can live to fight another day!


But Peter doesn’t choose that way. He doesn’t take the safe route. He doesn’t take the self-focused and self-protective route. He trusts that the Holy Spirit will give him the right words, and then boldly proclaims to the people who threw him in jail that Jesus Christ IS in fact God, and that was proven when Jesus was raised from the dead.


I mean, come on, this is bolder than anything we can imagine, because not only is he revealing the blame for Jesus’ crucifixion is on these powerful people, he’s also declaring that Jesus was raised from the dead, which is something the Sadducees didn’t believe in. They were devout followers of Yahweh who didn’t think that the resurrection of the dead was taught in the Jewish Torah. They interpreted their Bible differently.


So not only is Peter calling them out for having Jesus killed, he’s directly threatening their whole belief system.


[SLIDE 10]

And our text tells us that the members of the council were AMAZED when they saw the boldness of Peter and John. They were astounded and thrown off, because they were uneducated and ordinary men.


These two words, uneducated and ordinary, could also be translated as illiterate and amateur. They weren’t schooled as religious experts. In fact, the word for ordinary in the Greek is “idiotes”, which means unskilled and inexperienced.


[SLIDE 11] blank

They were just everyday idiots compared to the religious leaders, and yet here they were, boldly proclaiming truths about God and demonstrating incredible miracles.


The religious leaders have a dilemma, because they can’t deny that the guy was healed, he’s been standing there and dancing around ever since yesterday because he had spent the previous 40 years unable to walk!


The religious leaders needed to stop Peter and John. They were causing too much trouble. They were threatening too much.


So they commanded them not to preach about Jesus, threatened to have them beaten again and thrown in jail again, and then sent them off.


And it’s incredible how Peter and John and the rest of the followers of Jesus responded…they prayed.


But they DIDN’T pray that God would keep them safe! “Oh God, please protect us so that we don’t get in trouble for talking about you.”


“Oh God, please give us peace and safety. Please rescue us from this trouble. Please return us to our comfortable life! Please don’t let anything bad happen to us.”


No, they weren’t praying for those things. They were praying DANGEROUS prayers.


[SLIDE 12]

“And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to US, your servants, BOLDNESS to speak your word.”


They weren’t praying for more safety, they were praying for more conviction.

They weren’t praying for protection from difficulty, they were praying for protection from APATHY.


They didn’t ask God to make their lives more comfortable. They asked God to INCREASE their urgency to OBEY his leading no matter what the personal cost, because they KNEW that it meant spreading the good news of Jesus’ love and grace to people who need it!


[SLIDE 13] blank

And the response to that was amazement. I wonder, how amazed are people by YOUR boldness?


On a scale from 1 to 10, how amazed are people by your boldness. 1 being when you do something bold for God, they aren’t amazed at all, and ten being they are so amazed because they didn’t even know you were a Christian!


Because I can hear the response right now, “Oh Pastor Drew, this sounds great…for other people…but I’m just not a bold person. That’s not my personality.”


I’m sorry to break it to you, but boldness isn’t a personality trait. You can have quiet, introverted, hesitant people be bold in the Spirit. And in the same way, there are all kinds of charismatic, outspoken people who might shrink back in the face of spiritual opposition.


Boldness isn’t a personality trait, it’s an answer to prayer. So, when was the last time that YOU prayed for God to make you bold?


What areas of your life do you feel the prompting to ask for more boldness? Maybe you’ve been thinking about the people in your life that aren’t connected to a church family, and you know you need God to give you boldness to talk to them and invite them to join you for Easter.


Maybe you realize that when you’re not here, you’re connected to all kinds of people and all kinds of situations that try to pull you in the direction of apathy and worldliness.


Because there’s all kinds of ways to be bold for God. Sometimes, being bold for God means dressing modestly. Sometimes, it means NOT joining your friends at the bars every night of the week.


Being bold can involve committing to a habit of reading your Bible daily to get those words of life deeper into your soul.


Sometimes boldness involves asking a coworker or a neighbor if you can pray for them and then praying right then and there!


Sometimes boldness means confessing sin to someone you trust. Sometimes boldness means trusting God with your money more by committing to tithing 10% of your income to the work God is doing through his church so that he can help you learn how to trust him more with how he provides for the rest of your life.


When you pray a dangerous prayer like “make me bold,” there’s no way that you’re not going to be stretched and grown to become more like Jesus.


Even though the religious leaders warned Peter and John to stop, they prayed for boldness and they kept preaching. They saw miracles. They saw people respond with generosity. They saw people saved and join the family of God.


And the high priests and religious leaders? They were furious, and jealous. They actually got Rome to step in and put them in the public jail.


[SLIDE 14]

“They arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said ‘God, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message of life.’” (Acts 5:18-20)


When we pray dangerous prayers, like “make me bold,” it puts us in a position to see God at work, but it also can involve opposition.


The apostles got thrown in jail for the second time in just a few days. It would be easy for them to think, “where is God? Why isn’t he protecting us?”


When we ask God to make us bold, and then we follow him when he gives us opportunities to grow in becoming more like him, it might hurt us a bit.


It might mean you’re left out of that group on the saturday night. It might mean that you get passed over for the promotion or that the client calls you less.


[SLIDE 15]

But I love how pastor Craig Groeschel says it: “If you’re not ready to face opposition for your obedience to God, then you’re not ready to be used by God.”


[SLIDE 16]

Boldness can trigger opposition, but boldness also helps us see God’s miracles. Did we notice what happened when they got thrown in jail? “An angel of the Lord came at night, opened the prison doors, and brought them out.”


I just love how matter-of-fact this is written. Luke, the one who wrote Acts, isn’t freaking out and talking about how crazy it was to see this miracle. Because boldness often helps us see God’s miracles, so seeing an angel come and open the doors and give some instructions…yeah, not a big deal.


[SLIDE 17] blank

When you pray dangerous prayers like “make me bold,” and when you walk in obedience to God, you won’t be surprised by the miracles of God. You’ll see them more and more as God works in you and through you.


But the best part of asking for boldness? It grows our faith, because it requires us to trust God to be at work. The reason why many people don’t pray is because they think they’ll do it wrong, or they think it will hurt their reputation somehow, or they think it depends on their ability.


[SLIDE 18]

But boldness always requires faith. The angel told the apostles to “Go, stand in the temple and give the people the message of life. And they immediately went at daybreak and went on with their teaching.”


They immediately started doing the very thing that had gotten them beaten and arrested twice before. Because they hadn’t prayed for a comfortable life or a safe experience. They prayed for boldness and then had to trust God to be at work when they obeyed what he called them to do.


[SLIDE 19] blank

And because of their obedience, the church began to grow. Over the next few years, more and more people began to believe in Jesus. They scattered all over the world, and within three centuries, Christianity became the dominant religion of the entire Roman empire.


Here we are, two thousand years later, seeing God at work in our church and in our community because of the obedience of a few people in the middle east.


We NEED to pray dangerous prayers like “make me bold” because you have no idea what God can set in motion through a single act of bold obedience. You have no idea what Jesus can do through you.


There was a highschool student who grew up in an alcoholic home. Both parents were addicts and angry and not connected to church. And this teenage guy was doing his best to keep his head down and do well in school. He enjoyed working out, and he enjoyed music, and those were two things that were escapes for him from the tension of his home life.


And his best friend kept trying to invite him to youth group at his church. Finally, he prevailed and started going to church, and became really connected and invested in Jesus and his message of grace and hope.


So this teenager accepted Jesus as his savior, the first person in his family to do so. And after college, he went to Bible school and met a girl, and they got married and felt called into ministry.


And so they moved across the world with their two year old baby to help muslims meet Jesus. That highschool student was my dad. And it was all because of a bold act of obedience from his best friend, Brian, that he first went to church.


And Brian had no idea what God could do through that bold act of obedience! He had no idea that my dad would accept Jesus as his savior. He had no idea that he would meet a girl at Bible college who had been called to global missions since she was a child.


He had no idea that they would spend the next thirty years helping people in the Philippines and then in China learn that Jesus’ love and grace is for them.


He had no idea that they would raise two kids on the mission field who would also know Jesus as their savior. He had no idea that I would get involved in ministry and then go to seminary and then become ordained as a pastor and then follow Jesus’ call to the Sauk Valley to help people listen to God and follow Jesus and become transformed by him.


You have no idea what God can do through you! If you pray dangerous prayers, like “make me bold,” you WILL see God at work, you WILL have your faith grow, and you WILL be used to join Jesus in his work of spreading his love and salvation.


I would NOT be here if it weren’t for that invitation to youth group.


See what Jesus can through YOU.


What if you prayed, “Jesus, make me bold…”


You might get the boldness to believe that God answers prayers! You might get the boldness to love someone else enough to invite them to join you for church. You might get the boldness to share your faith in a simple way with someone.


Because you have no idea what Jesus can do through you when you have the boldness to obey him and follow him and join him in his work.


So let’s pray dangerous prayers, church. Let’s ask God to increase our faith and increase our boldness and increase our willingness to be used by him.


Let’s engage in the daily habit of listening for God’s voice through his word, through our prayers, through the sermon or through a conversation with our life group, and then let’s take a next step of obedience in doing what he’s prompting in us.


Let’s call that friend we’ve been thinking of inviting to church.


Let’s show love to that new person that we haven’t really met yet.


Let’s pray that God will speak to us boldly so that we can obey him and see him move, so that more and more people can be transformed by Jesus. Amen?