Traveling mercies. Hedges of protection. Guardian angels. I invoked them all and they were all invoked over me growing up. Before every youth group trip we’d huddle outside the van and pray together. Not for mountains to move. Not for people to get saved. We’d pray for traveling safety. Safety. That’s what I remember praying for the most growing up (that and pleading with God to help me ace my school tests).
Now as a parent, I want my own kids to be safe. Before they leave my sight my impulse is to tell them to be careful. My first inclination is to cry out to God that my He would keep my kids safe. Safety. That seems to be the number one thing Christians pray for. More than anything else, we ask God to keep us safe.
That is so opposite from how the early church prayed it’s not even funny. In Acts 4 we see the early church come right up against trials and persecution. Not scraped knees. Not a failed test. Not an awkward look or a wayward comment that might hurt our feelings. In Acts 4 the early church was faced with threats of violence by the very people who had executed their leader Jesus just weeks prior.
In Acts 4 we see the church gather to pray in response to intense persecution. This prayer was so important that the writer of Acts recorded it, preserving it now for almost 2000 years. It’s not a prayer for safety. Far from it. They ask for no hedge of protection or guardian angel. Here’s what they pray for: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30)
The early church never prayed for safety. They prayed for boldness. When faced with difficulty, they didn’t shy away, they doubled down. Their own safety and comfort were secondary to the Kingdom task given to them by Jesus in Acts 1:8. They had a visceral understanding that this world was not their home and that they were merely passing through.
Have we forgotten that today? Have we gotten too comfortable here? What would happen if our prayers changed from prayers for safety to prayers for boldness? Who knows? We might see a movement of God like we did in the book of Acts. Either way, if the primary thing we pray for in our life is safety, then our prayers are all wrong.