BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“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 Second Edition).
You and I need prayers and praises as we go through life. But many are more familiar with prayers than with praises. All over the world, people pray more than they praise. But God wants us to do both. 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 problem, you must also praise. 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 the scripture above, we see that 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. They actually cast out a demon from a girl – that was their offence for which they were thoroughly beaten and cast into prison (Verses 16-25).
Verse 25 says around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. The King James Version says Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God. They were not doing it apologetically or casually; they were doing it enthusiastically – passionately and other prisoners were listening to them. The other prisoners must have been wondering 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 God.
Why sing praises?
With prayer you make petitions, requests to heaven and with praises 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. Always think that it could have been worse. Don’t pray about that negative condition alone 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 till God changes their condition. 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 their 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 Second Edition). Singing praises is only for those who are happy! Praises 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 till they were out of prison before they sang praises to God. It was not just that they were in prison, the Bible says, “So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.” 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 fom beating them mercilessly casting them into prison and clamping their feet in stocks! They had a right attitude in their adversity. They had a right perspective about their negative condition. Their situation could have been worse!
That is exactly the kind of attitude that God expects from you and me. We should not just give ourselves to prayer because of our failure, pain, lack, sickness, retrenchment, unemployment; disappointment, etc. We should give ourselves also to praises. 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 praises. It could have been worse!
If you must obey James 5:13, then you must also obey Ephesians 5:20 “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NLT Second Edition). It says to give thanks for everything to God the Father. Everything means everything – both the good things and the bad things. Again, if you must obey James 5:13, you must also obey 1Thesalonians 5:16-18: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT Second Edition). Did you see that? Thanking God in all circumstances is the will of God for you. To do otherwise is to be out of the will of God.
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 Second Edition). Those churches were tested by many troubles but they refused to look troubled rather they were filled with abundant joy overflowing in rich generosity. That is the kind of attitude God expects from you. They became a blessing to others though they were facing many troubles – they didn’t concentrate on themselves trying to solve their own problems like many selfishly do today. And that’s why they stay longer in their problems than necessary – they are enmeshed in their problems.
Provoking heaven’s intervention
We provoke heaven’s intervention through prayers and praises. That was what Paul and Silas experienced in Acts 16:26. “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!” (NLT Second Edition) God can do the same for you if you will 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 then 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. “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped” (2 Chronicles 20:22-24, NLT Second Edition).
God will do much more in that negative situation you are going through now than you think. “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NLT Second Edition). He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above that which you ask or imagine according to the power that works in you (KJV). He can do much more than anything you can ask or imagine (New Century Version). He knows what to do next and He will do it for you. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT Second Edition).
Every ministry, church, Christian, business, home, etc. that is praying and praising God will come out of prison. Prayer and praises 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. I hear you say, “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. Think about that sickness, that examination, that business, that courtship, that marriage, that financial challenge, etc – it could have been worse. Just praise God for whatever reason you can think of – praise God in spite of… As you begin to pray more and begin to praise more, heaven will release what you need to come out of the unpleasant situation you’re now and move to the new thing God has for you.
For Paul and Silas, the prison doors and windows didn’t only open, their chains fell off. It shall happen for 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 before 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 Second Edition). That shall be your experience in Jesus’ name. “…My people will no longer be ashamed or turn pale with fear,” says Isaiah 29:22 (NLT Second Edition). It shall happen for you in the name of Jesus. Isaiah 54:4 says, “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood” (NLT Second Edition). 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, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening” (NLT Second Edition). Psalm 81:1 says, “Sing praises to God, our strength. Sing to the God of Jacob” (NLT Second Edition). Begin to sing praises to Him now while you’re still alive – not yet consumed by those problems you’re facing. Your condition could have been worse! Only the living can praise Him. David asks in Psalm 30:9: “What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness?” (NLT Second Edition). Psalm 6:5 conveys the same truth: “For the dead do not remember you. Who can praise you from the grave?” (NLT Second Edition)
Become praise-centric; let your praises be more than your prayers. Psalm 55:17 says, “Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice” (NLT Second Edition). That amounts to praying three times. And that 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 Second Edition). 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’re not born again, you need to make yourself ready for eternity. I urge you to take the following steps:*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t 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 to attend a Bible-believing, Bible -teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: “0 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 resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. 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, Bible teaching church in your area where you will be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you. May the Lord be with you.
T.O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523