On Sabbath we unleashed the power of prayer, petition and thanksgiving against despondency, gloom, and doubt.
Rewind to Acts 16:16-34. After casting out a demon from a slave girl (vs. 18), Paul and Silas were dragged before the authorities, severely beaten and thrown in prison with their feet fastened in stocks (vss. 19-24). The change in their circumstances was sudden and shocking. One minute they were casting out demons in Jesus’ name, the next they were in a rat-infested dungeon with insects feeding on their oozing, bleeding wounds.
These men had every reason to bemoan their circumstances and curse God. But they didn’t. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). “Praying, they were singing hymns,” (vs. 25) is the way the Greek expresses it. Instead of curses and complaining, Paul and Silas were praying and singing songs of praise in the night. Why? What would cause them to do something so opposite to human nature? Because they weren’t living according to their human nature, but were living and praising and singing by faith.
When the winds of strife were blowing, when the pain was intense, when the night was dark, they plugged into the Source of power through prayer and praise. And when we suffer blackouts of discouragement and doubt, we’ve got to get the lights back on the same way. Those who live by faith learn to sing songs in the night; They pray and praise their way to peace!
Faith is an alternate reality beyond the reach of circumstances. And faith is fostered in three powerful ways: by prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. Ten years later Paul would write these words to the church in Philippi where he had been jailed: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by PRAYER and PETITION, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the PEACE OF GOD, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
These are the weapons of faith. Therefore the just shall live by prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. That’s our reality. This is the secret to singing songs in the night, and Paul shared that secret in that same Philippian letter: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength”-Phil. 4:12-13. (Especially the strength to give thanks when you don’t feel like it!) Pray and praise your way to peace and sucker punch the devil.
When you do, realize that songs in the night, draw people to Christ. As they sang, “the other prisoners were listening to them.” Why were they listening? Because it was a song they weren’t used to hearing. Who praises their God when they’ve been beaten and put in prison? Their worship in the worst of circumstances got their attention. Could it be that one of the reasons secular society has stopped listening to Christians is because we tend to sing the same sad “O-woe-is-me” tunes they do? Rejoice in the Lord at all times and others will want to know the reason you sing.
Songs in the night bring the presence of God. God “inhabits” or dwells in the praises of His people (see Psalm 22:3). And when the presence of God comes in, the presence of Satan goes out. As dark as Paul and Silas’s prison cell was, when they sang, the angels came to join them and the dungeon became a cathedral.
Songs in the night bring angels to the rescue. Wherever God’s name is praised, angels come to join in. And at their approach, the earth trembled. Prayer, Petition, and Thanksgiving shake things up. It literally turns our circumstances upside down.
“At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (vs. 26). Songs in the night bring freedom. Don’t wait to feel better. Don’t wait for the pain to stop hurting. Don’t wait until sunrise. Right now, in the dark. Begin to sing. Praise the Lord. Worship. And wait. God will “rock your world” with His peace and your chains will be broken.
Songs in the night help others find Salvation. [Vss. 27-31] Joyous Christians don’t live for themselves. They know what they’re here for and see every circumstance in the context of bringing souls to Jesus.
Paul was not so absorbed in his own rapture (at being delivered) that he forgot the jailer. Paul’s joy in God involved forgiveness of those who injured him. We cannot know true joy if we are imprisoned by grudges against others.
And what was the result? [See verses 32-34.] Their songs in the night brought an entire family into the light. There was a point to their pain. Their imprisonment wasn’t a detour, it was a divine appointment to save a family and plant a church! Could God have done that a different way? Yes, but for those who live by faith, the way doesn’t matter. It’s not the path God chooses to get us where He wants us to be, it’s how we walk it that counts. And to sing songs in the night is to walk by faith and not by sight.
I’m thankful today for Jesus and for the promise that nothing can ever separate me from His love. Not even my fears and failures. Rewind to John 20:19 and 26. In both these instances, the disciples were not having a praise gathering. They were behind locked doors in fear and doubt. Yet Jesus came among them anyway! And His message was the same each time—Not, “Get your act together!” But “Peace be with you!”
Even when we’re all locked up emotionally in fear, doubt, and discouragement, Jesus comes to us in peace. Our fears and doubts can’t keep the risen Lord out! That’s grace! That’s the gospel!
“Stop doubting and believe,” Jesus said to Thomas. What is He saying to you today? “Stop doubting and pray.” “Stop fearing and praise.” “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet [sing songs in the night.]” God wants to hear you sing. Do it now. Blessed Thanksgiving. –Pastor Randy