Praying God’s Providence

Posted on May 11, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

When the New Testament church was born, and the followers of Christ set out to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, it was not a welcoming environment. In fact, they encountered hostility, rejection and government restrictions, similar to what many modern day missionaries are experiencing. The reaction of established religious authorities was especially harsh. The apostles were threatened, arrested, beaten and were soon to be martyred; they were ordered not to preach and teach publicly in the name of Jesus.

Acts 4 tells of the arrest of Peter and John. When they were released they went and reported their harassment to the gathering of local believers who responded by praying. It is worthy to note the nature of their prayer in this situation of threats and persecution.

“And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, ‘O Lord, it is You who did make the heavens and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father Daivd Thy servant did say, ‘“Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom thous didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur”’” (Acts 4:24-28).

They acknowledged God’s providence in all that was occurring. They affirmed their confidence in His sovereignty–that He made the heavens and earth and was in ultimate control of human events. They observed that an unlikely alliance between Herod and Pilate, Jews and Gentiles, had conspired to put Jesus to death; public opinion was raging against them and opposition to Christ and His kingdom was evident. But they went on to confess their conviction that nothing had occurred apart from God’s knowledge and contrary to His purpose.

The word “providence” comes from two Latin words: “video” which means to see, and the prefix “pro” which means to see beforehand. None of these events including the threats and harassment they were experiencing took God by surprise. Even the crucifixion of Jesus was in line with God’s purpose and plan to redeem a lost world.

We experience adversity and trials due to adverse circumstances but don’t encounter anything like the threats and dangers encountered by these early believers. We may even be ridiculed for our faith and our witness rejected. God is aware of what we are going through. Instead of being discouraged, disheartened and feeling forsaken we need to keep everything in the context of God’s providence, confident He has a plan and purpose for our blessing, welfare and growth and for His glory, even when all that is happening appears to be contrary to any positive consequences.

These believers in the early church did not pray that God would intervene and remove the suffering and take away the threats so they could safely proclaim the gospel. Confident that He knew the problem, they prayed, “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence” (Acts 4:29).

Assured of God’s providence they prayed for boldness, courage, confidence and grace to continue to faithfully bear witness and proclaim the word of God regardless of the consequences and suffering it would entail. Praying in the context of God’s providence is not an appeal for God to change our circumstances but to use them for His purpose.

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