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How do we experience joy during the times of our own suffering? Is it even possible to be joyful in our pain? The Book of Philippians is known as one of the happiest books of the Bible and yet it is written from within a prison. The Book of Acts finds Paul and Silas in prison as well. But it is in that prison that prayer and the power of praise and true worship brought about freedom from bonds! God inhabits the praises of His people! Learn how prayer and praise can free you from what imprisons you as well!
The Fortune Teller
We read in the New Testament in the Book of Acts that in Philippi, Paul and Silas came across a young slave girl possessed with a fortune telling spirit. She made a LOT of money for her masters with her abilities. She followed Paul and Silas around the city calling them out, declaring in Acts 16:17:
It’s amazing that even the demons declare God’s glory and power, isn’t it?
This went on for days until Paul finally had enough and he commanded the demon inside of her to come out, and the demon obeyed him.
Her masters were outraged! Paul had cost them the lucrative living they were earning from this young girl. So they dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace where it seems the whole town came out against them.
The officials had them stripped and beaten with wooden rods.
They were not only beaten but Acts 16:23 says:
Severely beaten and thrown into prison. The crime they stood accused of? Apparently teaching customs that were illegal for Romans at the time. At least that was the “accusation” against them. It’s obvious to us that this was about money and little less.
Paul and Silas in Prison
Their jailer was tasked with making sure these prisoners did not escape. The punishment for a Roman soldier who allowed a prisoner to escape was swift and severe.
The jailer put Paul and Silas WAY back into the innermost part of the dungeon and put them into stocks.
Since the Roman officials were well aware these men were followers of Jesus, the jailer was likely familiar with the “incident” at the empty tomb and he wasn’t taking any chances with the apostle Paul and his traveling companion Silas. But God’s power isn’t diminished by bars and chains.
God Inhabits the Praises of His People – Corporate Worship in a Prison
Acts 16:25 tells us:
Do you know that when you praise God in your worst circumstances, when you exercise faith in your “prison”, that people are watching you?
People are watching you to see if you truly have faith or if you waiver, but they are also watching to see if the presence of God will manifest in the praise of His people and if the Word of God is true!
They want to know if the Lord of Hosts truly does respond to prayer and praise in our difficult time.
How we react in good times and bad is a testimony and carries much weight with people who may be curious about whether or not Jesus Christ is real in our lives and whether we truly believe in the power of God to act in our circumstances.
Psalm 34:2 (some versions have 34:1)
The writer of the Psalm knew what it was like to be pursued, hunted down, to have his life in danger. But he was also a worship leader. He was our hymn writer! King David knew that the praise of Israel would defeat any enemy! He knew the threat of human beings was no match for the King of Kings.
Modern Christians should follow the example of this King of Israel. He cried out to God in his pain and his despair. Praising in your prison doesn’t mean you don’t cry out in your sorrow as well.
Psalm 22:2 (some have it as 22:1)
So David did not hesitate to cry out in powerful lamentation, in this Psalm of lament. Isaiah lamented as well. In fact the entire first 40 chapters of the Book of Isaiah (referred to by scholars as 1st Isaiah) is lamentation.
But David also sang songs of praise. He lamented but he praised! And the Word calls him a man after God’s own heart.
Are you after His own heart in your own prison of despair?
They notice, like these prisoners in the jail with Paul and Silas, when you have faith in the fire! People see Jesus in you when your prison doesn’t dictate your praise!
Even a prison can become a holy place when God’s people welcome His presence with a worship service in their own trials.
Acts 16:26 goes on and says:People see Jesus in you when your prison doesn't dictate your praise! #praise #prayer #proverbs31 Click To Tweet
Let’s not miss that word here.
When you give God your faith and your praises in your circumstances, He shows up! Not tomorrow, not next week. He shows up suddenly! The Lord of Lords hears your praise and worship in your pain and it does not go unheeded.
Now He could have just opened up the prison doors and broken the bonds and set the prisoners free, but this earthquake tells us that God wanted everyone to know He was at work.
And He is at work in your prison too…suddenly!
And like the prison doors and the stocks weren’t opened until the earth quaked, you may not see the end result right away but He is sending an earthquake that will begin to break those bonds in your life!!
He is at work even when we don’t see the end result yet!
God inhabits the praises of His people!God inhabits the praise of His people! Click To Tweet
Living a Life of Praise
When you praise God, He is there! And He works His will in your life and in the lives of those you touch!
The jailer was ready to take his own life because he knew the punishment for allowing not only Paul and Silas but the entire prison to escape.
You see, when they praised God, He didn’t just save Paul and Silas. The bottom line here is He set ALL the captives free (v.26).
Your praise in your prison can show God’s power and the love of Jesus to all those around you. You will bless many when they see your faith and the joy of the Lord because indeed, God inhabits the praises of His people. He radiates from your praises!God Inhabits the Praises of His People – What the Bible Teaches Us About Praise Click To Tweet
What Must I Do To Be Saved?
The jailer, when he saw that Paul and Silas and the others were still there, when he saw that even though the doors were open they didn’t leave him to suffer a certain execution, he wanted what they had.
He asked what he must do to be saved and He gave his life to Christ, him and his entire household!
Are we showing Jesus to those around us in our prisons or are we just complaining about our circumstances, going to friends for advice instead of praying and asking God for help? Are we whining instead of praising?
People are watching us and again, we may be the only Bible they ever read and the only Jesus they have ever seen.
Are we conducting ourselves in a way that makes other people ask what they must do to have the joy and the peace in the storm that we have? Do we reflect the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives only when things go our way or do we put on praise music and sing our hearts out even in the difficulties.
God Inhabits the Praises of His People – So Praise Him and Let People See God at Work!
The power of praise and prayer can shake the foundation of your trials! It can open the prison door when the enemy has you cornered and the peace of God will reign in your life! It can break the stocks off your feet when you are so downtrodden you don’t know what step to take next.The power of praise can shake the foundation of your trials! It can open the prison door when the enemy has you cornered! Click To Tweet
Paul and Silas prayed in their need. They praised in their prison. Both sang out in their stocks. They gave God the glory while the wounds on their back were still fresh and bloody! They knew well the power of praise! And the Creator of the Universe responded to their joyful songs in their hard times.
We too can praise Him in our trials because we have faith that He will use it for our good and for His glory! Place Him in His rightful place at the center of your life regardless of circumstances and you will see the powerful blessing that comes with the sacrifice of praise!
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Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society. Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.