Have you ever had “one of those days”? You try and say the right thing, just to help out some poor soul, but everything you say is twisted around and used against you. And all you wanted to do was help out a damsel in distress.
That’s what happened to the apostles Paul and Silas in Philippi.
And when the ordeal was over, they found themselves chained to the wall of a Philippian jail.
“Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive 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.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.”(Acts 16:25-34 NLT)
Did you note what Paul and Silas did at midnight?
Oh, and for your information, the jail Paul and Silas were in wasn’t like one of our modern day detention centers. They did not have electricity, so at midnight they had to sing in the dark. No sound system, so they had to sing loud (the prisoners heard them). No computer projector, no band, no heat. Only darkness, bugs, rats, sewage, and…
God was with them! He said he’d never leave them or forsake them; he meant it, they believed it, and they praised him because they believed him. They prayed and sang to God because it was the right thing to do.
People, wanting to put an emphasis on praise and worship, will use this passage to demonstrate the power of worship. Great!
Others, wanting to show how powerful prayer is, use it for a proof text. Fine!
Paul and Silas were praying AND singing hymns (odes, choruses, worshipful phrases) TO GOD…
Yes, the other prisoners heard them. Yes, there was a massive earthquake that hit more like a modern cruise missile that a conventional bomb. No one was hurt, and all the chains came off ALL the prisoners, not just the singers or those praying. Yes, the jailer was kept from killing himself, though how did Paul know when to cry out to the jailer? Yes, the jailer and his family were saved and baptized that night. Yes, it all happened as Paul and Silas were praying AND singing.
What was it that caused the earth to quake and the chains to fall off at midnight?
Not what; WHO? Asking the right question will help one navigate to the right answer.
God did. There was no magic formula. There wasn’t any “Get Out Of Jail Free” spiritual gyration that would release the chains and open the hearts of men and women.
What happened? They kept doing what they knew was right. Even though praying (and singing) in a public place was what precipitated their unlawful lockup, they didn’t quit doing what they knew was right!
If we won’t do the right thing when we’re free (unchained) to do so, we will not do the right thing when it could cause us more harm.
If we won’t pray and sing while there’s light, we won’t pray and sing in the dark.
I’d say God orchestrated their time in jail. I realize that’s hard for people to swallow.
But God IS NOT intimidated by iron bars. There’s never been a prison built that can keep Him in OR out.
AND, God isn’t our servant, tasked with keeping us comfortable.
If you’ve found yourself in some sort of prison, in some kind of chain, simply because you’ve obeyed the Lord Jesus, relax. Just relax, pray and sing.
Because it will cause the earth to quake, the chains to break, and a jailer to get saved? That could happen; yes indeed. But no, that isn’t the reason to do those things.
Because it’s the right thing to do.