Room-Shaking Prayer, Acts 4:31

I like this Bible verse.

“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).

Awesome, right?

I would love to experience room-shaking prayer in my lifetime. I have been in some intense community prayers, but none quite like what is described here. Fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit aside, I would be content to be in a room where the room is shaken by natural means — pure volume and foot-stomping as bold saints take part in a full-throated, raucous harmony.

However, the supernatural element to this passage is significant, and speaks more to our hope for the future.

Here is a selection from Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage.

“God gave them a sign of the acceptance of their prayers (v. 31): When they had prayed (perhaps many of them prayed successively), one by one, according to the rule (1 Co. 14:31), and when they had concluded the work of the day, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; there was a strong mighty wind, such as that when the Spirit was poured out upon them (ch. 2:1, 2), which shook the house, which was now their house of prayer. This shaking of the place was designed to strike an awe upon them, to awaken and raise their expectations, and to give them a sensible token that God was with them of a truth: and perhaps it was to put them in mind of that prophecy (Hag. 2:7), I will shake all nations, and will fill this house with glory. This was to show them what reason they had to fear God more, and then they would fear man less. He that shook this place could make the hearts of those who threatened his servants thus to tremble, for he cuts off the spirit of princes, and is terrible to the kings of the earth. The place was shaken, that their faith might be established and unshaken.”

May we take to heart such a “sensible token,” and others given in scripture, to bolster our unshakable faith and raise our expectations beyond the worldly. May we experience such a walk with Christ that we awaken to his presence, that we fear man less and fear God more.

Matthew Poole reflects on this verse as well: “In their difficulties and wants, the greatest and holiest in the church of God must go to God to be supplied, and prayer is the most successful means.” Has this not always been true?

Although I believe we should leave generous room for the unfathomable spaces God occupies beyond our mind, Christianity need not be some complex collection of impenetrable knowledge. We know the spiritual disciplines, we know we should read our Bible and pray. This has been our standard practice for millennia and will continue to be, rightly so. Even sticking to just “the basics” enables powerful work and discipling. Beware those that would teach a new and more complicated walk. Should we not have faith like a child’s?

Pray.

The phrase “were shaken” in Acts 4:31 is translated from the Greek word saleuō (σαλεύω) in the original text. This same term is used in Acts 16:26, “and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” (ESV, emphasis mine). In that story, Paul and Silas then have a fruitful encounter with the jailer. In this, we continue to see a cycle of prayer and answer for believers. Throughout the Biblical narrative and our own, we can see a chain of steadfast deliverance. Ultimately, God’s providence will be eternal and glorious!

To believe in God, and to follow Christ, is to believe in a layer of reality beyond our physical Earthly world (2 Corinthians 4:18!). We believe in an intelligent Creator of the universe, we speak of a Holy Ghost that we have a close relationship with, and we worship a man-deity who rose from the grave. I am prone to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our empirical earthbound journey, so I appreciate the reminders of a greater truth out there, scriptural or otherwise.

That Truth has a name: Jesus, and I am part of his plan. I really do hope and pray that, wherever I may go, God would shake things up.