BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
All over the world, people pray to God more than they praise Him. By praying, I mean asking God for one thing or the other. This is true of many Christians, too – they pray to God more than they praise Him. But some people neglect praise entirely. They don’t praise God; they only approach Him in prayer to request things. But God wants us to pray to Him and to praise Him. You cannot pray enough; you can never praise enough! You must pray when it is both convenient and inconvenient. You must also praise whether you feel like it or not. You must not pray alone when you’re in a problem, you must also praise God. Not many people do the latter.
Many will only pray when in trouble but not praise. It sounds reasonable and logical for them to ask: Is there any reason to praise God while one is in trouble? But in Acts 16, Paul and Silas were in prison not in the cozy atmosphere of a five-star hotel! They were put in prison not because they had committed any crime, but because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their offence, for which they were thoroughly beaten and cast into prison, was that they cast out a demon from a girl.
Acts 16:25-34 says, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:25-34 KJV).
Note that verse 25 of that scripture says that around midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God. The word “praises” is rendered psalms in many translations. They didn’t do it apologetically or casually; they did it enthusiastically – passionately and the prisoners heard them. The other prisoners must have wondered if they were out of their minds. They were not in a church building or in their bedroom – they were in prison. One may be compelled to pray in prison for deliverance but the prison is not the most appropriate place to sing praises! What will warrant that? But Paul and Silas prayed to God and found a reason to offer praises to Him.
Why should you sing praises?
With prayers, you make petitions or requests to heaven, and with praise, you show appreciation and admiration, you give adoration and honour (to God). But what was it that God did for Paul and Silas for which He deserved their praises? You and I can say that because we lack the right attitude to life that this duo had. No matter what you are going through, you should pray and praise God. Always think that it could have been worse. Don’t pray about that negative condition alone but also praise God in it.
People who can pray but cannot afford to praise because of the trouble, pain, disgrace, disappointment, etc. they are going through, have this attitude that praise can wait until God changes their condition. Such a person could say, “After God has given me the answer to my prayer, I will praise Him. But for now, even God knows that He doesn’t deserve my praises – He is not expecting my praises yet.” To support this position, they may even quote James 5:13: “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.” (NLT). Their argument is this: Singing praises is only for those who are happy! Praise should wait till I am happy – when God answers me.
But Paul and Silas both prayed and sang praises to God while in prison – they didn’t wait until they were out of the prison before they sang praises to God. It was not just that they were in a prison, the Bible says, “So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24 NLT). Did you see that? They didn’t find the prison comfortable. Their feet were clamped in the stocks. Their experience was not enjoyable. Yet, they prayed and sang praises to God – the God that didn’t stop their persecutors from beating them mercilessly casting them into prison, and clamping their feet in stocks! They had the right attitude in their adversity. They had the right perspective. Probably they remembered the teachings of Jesus on suffering for His sake. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12 NKJV). Paul had also persecuted Christians before his conversion.
The attitude of Paul and Silas is the type that God expects from you and me when we are going through persecution or negative circumstances. We should not only devote ourselves to prayer because of our failures, pains, lack, sicknesses, unemployment; disappointments, etc. We should also give ourselves over to praise. Don’t just quote James 5:13, which I referred to earlier, and say you won’t praise God because of the hardship you’re suffering. In all situations, God deserves your praise. Your situation could have been worse.
If you must obey James 5:13, then you must also obey Ephesians 5:20. It says to give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus. Everything means everything – both good and bad. Again, if you must obey James 5:13, you must also obey 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV). Did you see that? Thanking God in all circumstances is the will of God for you as a follower of Jesus Christ. Even when we have to mourn the loss of a loved one or we are grieving, we should never forget to be thankful to God in this circumstance. We are not thanking Him for what has happened, but we are thanking Him despite what has happened. We must not sorrow as unbelievers do. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NKJV).
Look at the positive attitude of the churches in Macedonia when they were in distress: “Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2 NLT). These churches were tested by many troubles, but they refused to be controlled by their many troubles. Rather, they were filled with abundant joy which overflowed in rich generosity. This is the kind of attitude God expects from you. They became a blessing to others, even though they were facing many troubles. They didn’t concentrate on themselves trying to solve their own problems, as many selfishly do today. And that’s why they stay longer in their problems than necessary.
Provoking Heaven’s intervention
We provoke heaven’s intervention through prayers and praises. This is what Paul and Silas experienced in Acts 16:26: “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (NKJV). God can do the same for you if you pray to Him and also praise Him in your present negative situation. It could have been worse! You cannot win by whining! Rather than praying, and start grumbling because the answer has not yet manifested, why don’t you start praising Him? I know it is not easy, but it is possible. And you can do it.
Your prayers and praises will work miracles, save souls – your soul and that of others – and bring down the power of God to work in your circumstances. As you begin to pray and praise God, He will cause your wall of Jericho to fall down. As you sing praises to God, He will give you victory as He gave Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah. The enemies killed themselves! “Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped” (2 Chronicles 20:22-24 NKJV).
God will do much more in that negative situation you are going through now than you think. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV). He can do much more than anything you can ask or imagine. He knows what to do next and He will do it for you. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NKJV).
Every ministry, church, Christian, business, home, etc., that is praying and praising God will come out of any prison. Prayer and praise were the keys that opened the prison door for Paul and Silas. They will open the prison doors for you too. Keep praying; never stop praising God.
Probably you are saying, “I have an issue to pray about but what is there in the present negative situation in my life to offer praises to God about?” My answer is: even in that negative situation there is something you can still praise God for. If you can think, you can thank God! Think about that sickness, examination, business, marriage, financial challenge, disappointment, etc. Praise God for whatever reason you can thank Him in that situation. As you begin to pray more and praise God more, He will bring you out of the unpleasant situation you are in now and move you to the new thing He has for you.
For Paul and Silas, the prison doors and windows didn’t only open, their chains fell off. It shall happen to you, too. All the prison doors and windows where your destiny, your life has been held in captivity shall be flung open as you begin to pray and praise God. The chains that have bound you shall be broken into pieces in the name of Jesus.
The end of the story is that those who disgraced Paul and Silas and put them in prison did not only release them; they begged them to go and even apologized to them. “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours” (Isaiah 61:7 NLT). That shall be your experience in Jesus’ name. The LORD says, “My people will no longer be ashamed or turn pale with fear” (Isaiah 29:22b NLT). This shall be your portion in the name of Jesus.
Isaiah 54:4 says, “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore” (NKJV). May heaven confirm these scriptures in your life now in Jesus’ name. Your enemies will surrender to you. Those who have humiliated you will bow before you.
Granted you have prayed to God today, but have you sung praises to Him? Psalm 92:1-2 says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night” (NKJV). Psalm 81:1 says, “Sing praises to God, our strength. Sing to the God of Jacob” (NLT). Begin to sing praises to Him now because you are still alive, not consumed by the problems you are facing. Your condition could have been worse! There is still hope for you. Only the living can praise Him. The Prophet Isaiah said, “Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next” (Isaiah 38:19 NLT). David said in Psalm 6:5, “For the dead do not remember you. Who can praise you from the grave?” (NLT).
Become praise-centric; let your praises be more than your prayers. Psalm 55:17 says, “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (NKJV). That amounts to praying three times. And this is good. It is a good discipline, a great habit. But compare this to what Psalm 119:164 says: “I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just” (NLT). That is even a greater thing to do – greater than praying three times a day. Develop the habit of praying and singing praises to God in all situations and you will never become a captive of your circumstances.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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