(25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
(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 every one’s bands were loosed.
Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for practicing their faith. In the verses before, Luke records how Paul, in the name of Christ, cast a demon out of a young slave girl. This girl had “brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” (16:16). When Paul cast her demon out “her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone,” and they had Paul and Silas arrested.
During the brief “trial” that followed, Paul’s accusers said that the apostle was teaching unlawful customs that were potentially harmful to the Roman Empire. Funny, they never mentioned how Paul had run them out of business and that’s why they were upset.
Unfortunately for Paul and Silas, their accusers had home field advantage, and the multitude, rather than digging into the real facts of the case, believed the hype instead. Riding on that wave of popular opinion, the magistrates had Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned.
In response, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns of praise to God. They prayed and they praised! It’s important to note that their songs weren’t songs that pined away over their predicament. They were songs that glorified God and the other prisoners heard it (16:25).
As hard as it may be to do, we need to be in the habit of counting it all joy when we fall into manifold trials (James 1:12). Why? Because the world is watching. They need to see what a difference Christ makes. We also need to be of that mindset so that we can maintain an attitude of prayer (instead of despair) when trials come into our lives.
1 Peter 4:19 “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”
Paul and Silas could pray and sing because they knew their lives were in God’s hands. Their job was to continue serving Him wherever He put them. If that was in prison, then so be it. So often we allow our circumstances to dictate our actions and attitudes. We especially let it affect our prayers. “Oh, I can’t pray now, I’m too depressed, or too discouraged, or too….” It’s exactly those times we should praying!
Now the miracle that followed was the earthquake God brought to free Paul and Silas, but equally miraculous was the fact that none of the prisoners left (16:28). Had that happened the jailer would have had to pay with his life and it would not have been a pleasant death. It’s why he opted for suicide over the much more slow and painful state-imposed death penalty (16:27).
But really the greatest miracle was the response of the jailer after the earthquake and the almost-prison-break: “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
We can tell the world about Christ all day long – and we should – but what the world really needs to see is lives lived all out for God so that they see the words really mean something. Why do you think God sends us and not angels to spread the Gospel? Because people need to see that this is really life changing!
You know who else needs to see our words of faith lived out in our lives? God. Do you think just anyone could have prayed and sang praises to God and gotten those kinds of results? No. It was men who were completely sold on God who got those results, men whose lives backed up what they professed.
So, we need to ask ourselves: does my real life back up my prayer life?