23 When Paul and Silas had been severely beaten, the authorities threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to secure them with great care. 24 When he received these instructions, he threw them into the innermost cell and secured their feet in stocks.
25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 All at once there was such a violent earthquake that it shook the prison’s foundations. The doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the open doors of the prison, he thought the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted loudly, “Don’t harm yourself! We’re all here!”
29 The jailer called for some lights, rushed in, and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He led them outside and asked, “Honorable masters, what must I do to be rescued?”
Paul and Silas have been attacked by a mob, falsely accused and sentenced, severely beaten, and put in maximum security, chained in the depths of a dark prison. Their situation seemed pretty hopeless, so they prayed and sang hymns to God. Their prayers and hymns bore witness to the transforming power of God’s love, through Jesus Christ, and brought hope and new life into dark places.
Worshiping God transforms us. Praising God, praying without ceasing, giving God thanks, serving others, this is the daily life of a disciple of Jesus. But none of us, hurting in the midst of the worst thing that has ever happened to us, feels like singing praises to God. It’s always easier to praise God on the mountain top, than it is to praise God in the valley. Yet that’s what we’re called to do, to bring the light and hope of God’s love into dark places. Paul did this for the slave girl when he cast out the spirit in Jesus’ name. She was imprisoned in a life of exploitation and could only be freed by the transforming power of the love of God.
The prisoners who listened to Paul and Silas heard prayers and hymns to God in the darkness, instead of cries of anger and hopelessness. The jailer was saved by Paul and Silas calling out to him, rather than by their escaping. Their lives were living examples of the love of God that caused the jailer to want to know how to be “rescued.” Worship transforms people and situations, not by miraculous intervention like earthquakes, but always by God’s love for us. Each of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit, able to find the peace and joy that is always available within us, that only God can provide. No matter what’s happening to us, we can seek God, praise God, and rest in God’s transforming love.
By Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
How can we praise God when we’re in dark places? Paul wasn’t alone, he had Silas with him, who was known for his encouraging speeches. Worshipping with others encourages us, upholds us through tough times. The Holy Spirit is within us helping us to grow in faith and strength, and helps us to praise God and be transformed by God’s love. Today, listen to praise songs or hymns, sing along, read the psalms out loud to God. Praise God and be transformed.
Prayer: Holy God, transform us by the power of your love so that we can praise you every day. Let our entire lives become living examples of your love. Amen.