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. Acts 16:25-26;
Praising God is not a difficult task when things are going on well. When the bank account is fat and there are no outstanding bills to settle; when the body is healthy and there are no traces of pain or strain; when examinations are passed and promotions come regularly at work; when the children are doing well and no one has problem at all with drugs; when business ventures succeed and disappointments are far away; when all family members live in harmony and relationships are warm, it is a natural thing to rejoice and be glad. But what happens at the dark moments of our lives? - when all dreams are shattered and broken into pieces; when failure meets every step and venture; when relationship fails and our world is fallen apart; when friends forsake and loneliness takes over; when disappointments rain from every side and all hope is lost, you agree with me that praising God in such moment is beyond ordinary.
In the above passage the situation that Paul and Silas found themselves was not a pleasant one at all. Following their arrest for preaching the gospel of Christ, they were stripped naked in the market square; they were beaten with horse whip woven with razors and dragged on the floor for many hours which resulted in their flesh being bruised and torn in several places. That was not all; with blisters and patches of caked blood all over their bodies, they were confined to the inner prison with their feet firmly held down in stocks under the watch of a heavily armed guard! The situation was really bad and humiliating.
However, Paul and Silas against all odds prayed and with passions sang hymn of praise to God. They refused to give attention to the deplorable conditions they found themselves in the prisons but chose to appreciate God in that situation. Not even the excruciating pain in their body brought about by the injuries inflicted on them by the thorough beating they received from the mob during the day was enough to stop them from praising the Lord. They sang praises to God even when there were seemingly no reasons at all to rejoice or be excited. Their prayer was not one seeking vengeance or revenge on their captors but that of heartfelt gratitude to God for counting them worthy to be partakers of the sufferings of Christ! They praised God and sang tirelessly. Although it was a midnight at the point when darkness was at its peak, but within the hearts of these faithful servants of Christ, it was a bright sunny day! Sorrow and self pity had no room in their hearts at all.
Before the incident described in the above passage, Peter and some other Apostles were equally imprisoned at one time or the other. On those occasions the brethren gathered in their multitudes to offer fervent and intensive prayers for their deliverance. God in answer to the prayers of the saints on both occasions sent an angel to deliver the Apostles. However on this particular occasion, it is not on record that God sent an Angel to deliver Paul and Silas; it appears that God Himself descended into the prisons to deliver His people! Of course the prison was too small to contain the Almighty God whose footstool is the whole earth, and this resulted in great earthquake and terrific shakings! The prison’s heavy metal doors, bars and pillars were shaken out of positions. Hand cuffs and stocks of chains with which the prisoners were bound fell off in their own accord! How awesome is the presence of the Almighty God precipitated by the praise of His saints!
God inhabits the praise of His people according to the scriptures. Prayer is good and very powerful but God responds to praise in a special way different from the way He responds to mere asking in prayers. The praises flowing from within the four walls of the prisons through the mouths of Paul and Silas caught the attention of the Almighty God so much that He did not send an angel to deliver them as did He at other times when the brethren only prayed! It is satisfying to know that God responds to the praises of men especially when such praises flow from pure hearts and undefiled lips.
The power of praise has no limitations, especially when it is offered genuinely from a pure heart right in a situation that is seemingly not conducive for rejoicing or excitement. The surest way to get the Almighty God committed in any situation is to praise Him and praise Him and praise Him and praise Him! God is bigger than all our problems and challenges put together; so when we come to His presence, the most important thing is not emphasizing the problems at the expense of offering Him quality praise due to His name for ever.
The Almighty God is awesome and bigger than what the power of language can ever describe, so our praise to Him is not only about the good or wonderful things we say about Him, but the condition of our hearts. We can live a victorious life and have harvests of sweat less breakthroughs when we praise God in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations and storms.
Praise calms every storm; it sooths every pain. Praise gives courage to faint souls and raises the down trodden. Praise sets on high those who have discovered the secrets of praising God both in good and bad times. Indeed, we can breakthrough with praise and have smooth ride to victory in the journey of life.
By Ezekiel Olukolajo
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