There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place

 Holy SpiritAfter they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  
                                            Acts 16:23-25 (NIV)
Imagine this scene with me. Not the Hollywood version, sanitized so as not to offend our modern sensibilities, but as close as we can come to reality. The prison is dark, cold and filled with the smells of men who have not seen a bath in many days, some as long as months or perhaps even years, filled with the smells of infected flesh from wounds left untreated in this filthy hole where the only bathroom is a corner of each cell. All around you the clinking of chains, the muttered curses of the prisoners and the responding shouts of the guard echo from the rough stone walls. You are in incredible pain from the beating you just took, whipped with rods until your back is a mass of swollen, bruised and bleeding flesh and you’re to the edge of death. Your ankles are encircled by rough iron rings that keep you tethered to the floor or wall by a thick iron chain. No matter how you try to sit or lie, you hurt. Every breath is misery.
I don’t know that my response in that situation would be prayers and praises. I’m afraid I would be blinded by the pain and the injustice of it all and not able to see that the hand of God was still working. And when my companion, whose actions put us in this place and who is as badly beaten as I am, began to sign and pray, I don’t think I would be ready to join in. But that’s exactly what Silas did. Their praying and singing silenced the curses and moans of the other prisoners. That sweet sound rang off the stone walls and the Spirit was present in a powerful way. (Read the rest of the story in Acts 16:16-34 to see what happened next!)
Have you ever had one of those days when nothing is going right and you think things can’t possibly get worse, and then they do? What is your response? If you’re like me, the first thing that comes to mind is complaining to God, not praying or praising Him. But we can learn a better way from Paul and Silas, for their prayers and praises opened the way for God to do a mighty work that resulted not only in their freedom, but also in the salvation of the jailer and his entire household. Who would have thought?
Prayer: Lord, teach us your ways that we may cooperate with you as fellow workers of your grace in this dark, cold world through the power of your Holy Spirit. You are still and always will be a God who hears and we praise you! Amen.
Rev. Sarah Fotopulos, Associate Pastor