Scripture: Acts 16: 25-40
Key verse: (25) “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God.”
Reflection: I continue to be amazed at how Paul survived so many beatings at the hands of the authorities. This most recent beating in his ministry was in response to a complaint by local merchants over losing profits. Paul had exorcised a demon out of the local merchant’s slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who after being healed, no longer could tell fortunes. Their profits dried up, so, they went to the chief magistrates to file a complaint. Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and shackled to the wall deep inside a prison where they prayed and sang hymns all night in praise to God. Over the course of his ministry, the Apostle Paul was in prison for 5-6 years in different prisons for different amounts of time. I’ve never counted how many times he was detained, beaten with rods, stoned with rocks, or lashed by a whip, but it was a lot. Just read the entire book of Acts. And yet, he was able to sing and praise God. Everyone in the prison was listening, including the guards. A little bit of solace in the terrible conditions they experienced. Then, there was an earthquake and the prisoners were freed from their chains. In despair, the jailer was ready to take his own life. In ancient times if a prisoner escaped, the jailer had to take the prisoner’s place. He rather die. But, Paul stopped him. “We are all here!”, Paul exclaimed. In a moment of amazement and awe, the jailer fell down and surrendered in faith to God. A new believer was born.
The part of this story that is remarkable to me is how Paul and Silas could sing and give praise to God in their dire circumstances. This kind of faith is remarkable. How often do we complain over far less, refusing to give praise to God until everything works out the way we want? In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul reminded them to give thanks in all things (5:20) What might happen if we did the same? Could we give thanks for God’s sustaining presence even when we are locked up in the prisons of injustice, suffering, and pain we experience? I pray we will. Think about how this might change us.
Prayer: Loving God, by your saving grace we are set free to respond in faith to you. We give thanks for the witness of the Apostle Paul who teaches us to sing and pray in the midst of the unknown. Help us to follow in the ways of Jesus Christ and offer others the same kind of hope Paul offered the jailer so long ago. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].