But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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 chains were loosed.
After setting a slave girl free from the spirit that controlled her, Paul and Silas found themselves beaten and imprisoned. Sore from their beating, bound by stocks and in the deep darkness of the inner prison, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God.
Prayed and sang hymns?!?!
In the same situation, I would have been crying and giving God the “What for.”
My prayer would have sounded like, “Lord, I set that slave girl free, but I didn’t do it of my own power. You enabled me to do that. Didn’t you want me to do it? Don’t you want your people free? Now here I am, imprisoned after setting her free. What’s going on here?” There would be no sound of singing from my cell, only the sound of weeping, moaning and complaining.
My reaction would have been based in the bleakness of the reality around me. Paul and Silas had the ability to lift their eyes above their situation and focus on the truth – the sovereignty of God. They were willing to face discomfort to share the truth of the Cross.
As they lifted their eyes, they were able to pray and sing. What a testimony to the other prisoners who were listening. I imagine Paul and Silas’ attitude of worship pervading the prison and the other prisoners finding hope and solace in the words they sang and prayed. Maybe they even joined in – in their hearts or aloud.
In the midst of worship in what seemed their darkest hour, God showed up – in power and strength. He loosed their chains and opened doors.
So often we want God to work in the opposite way, “Set me free, Lord and then I’ll praise you.” However, Paul and Silas’ example was left for us for a reason – sometimes we have to praise him in the most difficult of situations, trusting He knows all that is going on and has everything under control. He is not unaware of our struggles, our pain and our tears.
By stepping outside of ourselves and praising Him in those situations, we surrender to His sovereignty. No doubt He will move on our behalf. We will be freed from bondage, no longer dragging the chains of pain, deep hurt and rejection, but leaping and dancing with joy from the knowledge of Him and who we are in Him.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills –
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.