Saturday, July 14, 2012

Prayer Really Works!

One day as we (Paul, Luke, Silas, and Timothy) were going down to the place of prayer, … A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns (of praise) to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive (and violent) earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” Acts 16:16, 22-31 (NLT).

Acts 16 describes the beginning of the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey.  With this journey, Paul was accompanied by Silas, Timothy and Luke.  Luke was a physician and also author of two New Testament books, the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts. Their journey led the men to Philippi.  These men were going to pray when an evil spirit living inside a girl began to torment them. Paul eventually turned around and through the Spirit of Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the girl. The owners of the girl eventually had Paul and Silas arrested, stripped, severely beaten, and placed in stocks inside prison. Paul and Silas’ future as at Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 27:65) seemed hopeless.

Despite this depressing situation, Paul and Silas spent the night singing and praising God in the Philippian jail as their fellow prisoners listened. The other prisoners and the guards definitely heard much about Jesus and His Good News of salvation through the hymns of Paul and Silas, as well as through their testimony of joy in the midst of suffering. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise, a massive and violent earthquake shook the prison’s foundations and all the doors immediately flew open, and the prisoners’ chains fell off. The massive earthquake is reminiscent of the great earthquake and the power of God at Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:2-3). The earthquake, the loosing of the prisoners’ chains, and the resulting panic led the jailer to ask Paul and Silas about salvation. Paul and Silas’s faithfulness to God caused the jailer and his entire household to seek God found in Jesus Christ.  The jailer believed in the Lord Jesus and he was saved and filled with joy. 

This Scripture passage teaches that no matter what your circumstances, we should continue to be faithful and devoted to God with sincere prayer and songs of praise (see Psalm 42:8-10; Mark 9:23; Philippians 4:4-6). Surprisingly, while Peter was in jail he slept as the church prayed for his deliverance from jail (Acts 12:1-19) whereas Paul and Silas prayed and sang sings of worship to God while in jail. In both cases, prayer and faith in God were the keys to their freedom!  Prayer really does work.

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