“After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’”
Acts 16: 23-28
Theologians tell us Acts should be studied as a descriptive account of the early Church, and how the power of the Holy Spirit propelled the message of the Gospel throughout the world. I completely agree, but the book also contains some powerful prescriptive patterns for walking out Christian life. Acts 16 outlines one of my favorites.
Paul and Silas find themselves in a Philippian prison--locks, stocks, the whole deal. Their sore, bloody bodies chafe against the rough stone walls. The stocks cut into filthy wounds on their ankles. Prison vermin remind them they are not completely alone, but have hungry company. How should they proceed? What's the plan now?
It's a simple, yet profound plan. Pray and sing. Praise God for who He is and ever will be. Remember His powerful presence in each and every moment of life. Access the peace that passes understanding, by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit when times are tough. Pray, praise, and keep on moving.
God answers their prayers with a mighty earthquake, an amazing opportunity to witness, and the conversion of an entire family. Paul and Silas had no idea how God would miraculously respond when they turned to Him. They could not have imagined the outcome. When we bring sorrows, stressors, and situations to Jesus Christ, praising Him for who He is and asking for His help, we simply cannot imagine what He will do. He achieves far more than we can ask, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
In so many life situations, there's no easy resolution. Friends and family members disagree. Individuals take hard stands, or use harsh words. Wisdom, even the wisdom of God’s Word, seems to take us down a dead end street. It doesn’t always triumph like we want it to--at least not in the timing we prefer.
That where jailhouse praise fits in. Whatever the situation or hard stop we experience, praising God for His power and presence is an appropriate response. He is the God from Whom all blessings flow, and He works through the prayers and praise of His people. Praise acknowledges His Sovereignty and our reality–we are under His Almighty Hand.
When the dungeon seems locked up and inpenetrable, I’m called to adjust those shackles, take a deep breath, and sing the praises of my Almighty Father. When I do, with a full heart and strong focus, I’m poised for the earthquakes to come.