The place of prayer was getting popular.
A slave-girl with a spirit of divination gave the missionaries free advertisement. But Paul needed no publicity from hell. He delivered the girl of the fortune-telling spirit. When her owners saw their fortune gone with the wind they retaliated.
Paul and Silas paid a high price for their obedience. They were mobbed, stripped, flogged and placed in a maximum security prison with their feet in stocks. These instruments of torture fasten your feet into a board with holes, forcing your legs apart and causing excruciating pain and muscle cramps.
Put yourself in their stocks. How would you respond? Some people won’t sing in church if the aircon breaks down. Or if their favourite band isn’t featured. Much of what we call “worship” nowadays is increasingly generated by the sensational. We are moved by what we see and hear on stage – the visuals and the vibrations. What on earth would we do in a deep dark dungeon with our feet in stocks?
How did the apostles respond? Instead of dwelling on themselves and giving in to despair, they defied the impossible. They magnified God above every problem and pain.
In the pitch of night, with backs bleeding and muscles cramping, they prayed and sang hymns to God. This is not a normal human response to oppression and injustice. It expresses the deep conviction that, no matter how bad things go, Christ is King, He is in control, and He is working all things together for good. This gave Paul the moral right to remind the Philippians later on to rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4).
Spiritual disciplines trigger spiritual power.
How did God respond? He listened. He acted. As Luke shows repeatedly in his Gospel and Acts, spiritual disciplines trigger spiritual power. Prayer and praise in the Philippian prison set off a seismic demonstration of God’s awesome deliverance. The foundations of the prison were shaken. Chains fell off. Doors flew open.
And most importantly, the jailer and his entire household opened their hearts and home to the Gospel and the missionaries. That hard-nosed warden who was accustomed to torturing prisoners now washes the wounds of Paul and Silas and feeds them at his table. Prayer and praise open prison doors, set captives free and bring positive outcomes from impossible situations.
Fast and pray
- Wake up! Tradition has it that Satan was once the worship leader in heaven. He lost his platform because of pride. He wants it back. He retaliates. He mutes the praise of the saints. He reduces our singing to a mere Sunday ritual, a programme filler to satisfy our religious conscience. He promotes songs so unsingable that people barely move their lips. Songs so unfamiliar, we no longer hear passionate voices rising from the pews, harmonising praises to God. Songs so complex they are more suited for solo performance than corporate praise. Congregational singing has become congregational staring. This is a great loss to the Church. Christianity is a singing faith. To what extent has your church fallen for this folly? In brokenness, ask God to forgive our lack of discernment. Pray for godly zeal to put our house in order.
- Shake up! Songs of praise and worship are God’s mighty weapons of warfare against the devil. Mary Slosser, missionary to China, wrote: I sing the Doxology and dismiss the devil. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, said: I believe truly that Satan cannot endure it and so, he slips out of the room when there is a true song. Are you feeling lousy today? Defy the gloom. Magnify God. Dismiss the devil by giving God your highest praise. Sing aloud a true song of seismic praise. Exalt God above all else! All hail the power of Jesus’ name, let angels prostrate fall!
- Rise up! 2018 Year of Prayer. 2019 Year of Proclamation. This is a God-thing. For that reason, we face intense spiritual warfare. The enemy hates it when we unite in prayer-evangelism. We will not be intimidated. This is not the time to hold back. This is the time to throw the enemy into utter confusion with our seismic praise. One Name, One Hope! Prayerwalk your block or workplace. Rejoice over the coming harvest with songs of praise from the depths of your being. To God be the glory, great things He hath done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son …
- Shape up! We witness with our lives. Like it or not, trials bring out our true colours. If we haven’t been practising the disciplines of Word, prayer and praise in all circumstances good and bad, more likely than not, we will blow our top when things go wrong. Reflect on your life over the past half year. Were there more meltdowns than victories? If you have failed miserably, tarnished God’s name and lost your testimony, repent. Ask God for a second chance. Surrender your life fully to Him – so that come what may, even in your darkest night, you are a worshipper, you are a witness, you are a winner. Shine brilliantly for Jesus.
Read the devotional from Day 16: Lydia-Link here.