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. (Acts 16:25-26 KJV)
It is easy to sing praise in the day time, when you are surrounded by the congregation of the brethren, and when all things are going well for you; but to offer praise at midnight, away from the brethren and bound in a prison yard, is another matter.
Compelled by the Macedonian vision, Paul had journeyed till he came to Philippi. However, unlike what he saw in the vision, the Philippians did not look like they needed help. This is one irony about Christian ministry. Sometimes, while in the place of prayers, you will see men seeking God and desiring to know God, and your heart will be stirred to teach them about God. However, when you now go out to actually preach or seek them out, you will see a different story- you will see people who are indifferent to the Gospel. But that is simply because you are observing things with the natural eyes. If we observe from the real spiritual situation, we will see that behind the stubborn looks and the indifferent demeanours is a heart seeking help.
Hence, not moved by the physical situation in Philippi, Paul sought out a place of prayers and started preaching there. This led to one of their first converts in that region, a woman called Lydia. It is important to note in scriptures the role that women played in Bible times. The conversion of Lydia led to Paul and his team having a place to rest their heads each night. They continued preaching safely in that region until a particular incidence occurred, that changed the whole game for them in that city.
It was also another woman- this time a young girl. She had a ‘Python’ spirit with which she could tell the future. She was a slave girl, and her masters made lots of profit from her fortune-telling. Now, she would not have made any profit for her master if her divination was false. So, for her to make all those false profits, her divination must have been accurate and precise. This tells us that having the ability to see the future and predict events does not necessarily confer upon a man the toga of true spirituality. That realm is a realm that can be operated by negative spiritual forces also.
Now, to the girl: she saw Paul and his team and followed after them, prophesying, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to be saved.” (Acts 16:17 CEV). The funny thing about this activity of hers was that her prophetic declarations were actually true! Though inspired by the demon inside her, she gave a true testimony of Paul and his team. That is quite strange. Why would a demon do something like that? Very simply, it is called “validation.” She was trying to get the Apostles to validate her fortune-telling business. In giving this true prediction, she was aiming at having the Apostles see her as a partner and helper in the ministry; and this has been the undoing of many Christians, believers and ministers today. They have believed a demon and validated it simply because it bore witness to their ministry or to their beliefs.
As a believer in Christ Jesus, you must learn to listen with your spirit, and not just your ears. There are some on-air personalities (OAP) that I see many Christians listening to and supporting simply because they air a sympathetic view which they have on a particular matter. However, it is important to note that no matter how truthful and how ‘sound’ a radio station, an OAP, or even a prophet appears, watch out for his spirit. There are many agents of darkness parading them as angels of light. We must be sensitive and careful.
Paul sensed the demon in the girl and cast it out. This drew the wrath of her masters who raised a riot that ended in Paul and Silas being thrown into the jail. “The crowd joined in the attack on Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes off the two men and ordered them to be beaten with a whip. After they had been badly beaten, they were put in jail, and the jailer was told to guard them carefully. The jailer did as he was told. He put them deep inside the jail and chained their feet to heavy blocks of wood”. (Acts 16:22-24 CEV).
This was the condition that Paul and Silas were when they lifted their voices at midnight to pray and to praise the Lord with songs. Now, we have seen this passage severally preached from as the key to obtaining open doors. We are taught that if we can pray and praise the Lord, the prison doors will open. But that is neither a principle nor a key to anything. It is simply a lifestyle. Paul and Silas did not praise God expecting deliverance; they praised God because that was what they normally do. They belonged to a generation that will pray and praise even when there is no food to eat. They belonged to a generation that will pray and praise God even when they do not have money. That generation is gradually fading today. Today we see Christians who enter into depression and begin to doubt the faithfulness of God simply because of a trying moment in their lives; but not Paul and Silas.
I do not know what they prayed, but from the much I know about Paul, I could safely say that they took time to pray for the new believers in Philippi so that they may be strengthened in their faith. They took time to pray for the salvation of more souls in that region. They were workers for God; and when they could not work by preaching, they worked by prayers. But no matter what, they were working.
So, they praised God at midnight. In the face of trying situations; with their feet tied to a stock in the innermost dungeons, they still lifted up their voices in worship. Sometimes, I wonder what song they sang. As I write this article, one song is rising in my heart as a suggestion:
“You deserve the Glory, and the Honour,
Lord we lift our voice in worship, and we bless you Holy Name.
For you are great, you do miracles so great,
There is no one else like you; there is no one else like you.”
Of course it was not this song, but it was something like that. They were not praising for deliverance, they were offering God a sacrifice- a sacrifice of praise. They worshipped God for granting them the privilege of serving Him. It was a sacrifice, an offering of their lips, and what made it special was that IT WAS MIDNIGHT, in a prison cell.
Though it is not a principle that God acts like this every time, but He decided to do so this time. Nevertheless, whether he delivers us from the prison yard or not, a praise offered at midnight is usually of a great taste to the Almighty God. Of course I do not mean a literal midnight (but a time of great trial). It is easy to praise God when the drums are playing and the instruments are sounding; it is easy to praise God when all is well with you- but to praise Him at midnight- such praise is highly valued by the Almighty God.
Of course the prison doors were broken, the Philippian jailer was saved, and the next day Paul and Silas were released. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed. (Acts 16:40 KJV)
AND SO? Have you learnt to actually praise God? Not just when things are good, but all the time. Have you ever been in a seemingly impossible situation? What did you do? Complain or Praise? This calls us to introspection. As we serve God and live for Him, we must learn to pray and praise at all times, even at midnight.