About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. Acts 16:25-26, NIV
The Holy Spirit—the Divine mover and shaker. The power broker. The door opener. The behind the scenes operator. But where is this moving, shaking, door opening, cause-and-effect heavy hitter, when one of God’s own is trapped in the prison cell of a dead-end job?
This question is worthy of our consideration. We agree that few things are as disheartening as an unfulfilling job—day in, day out, the best part of the day, the greatest part of our years—and we pray for God to set us free. We need some moving. Some shaking. Some chains falling to the ground. It takes only a mustard seed of faith to move a mountain, so we pray in faith for a new job. Nothing. Jesus said “Ask and it will be given.” So we ask. Nothing. Jesus said to be persistent in our prayers and not lose heart. We persistently pray for a new job. Nothing.
Before long we begin to lose heart. Then deep disappointment sets in. Then the anger. And soon we are downright mad at God. We have faith. We believe His Word. Yet He leaves us, sometimes for decades, in a pit of destruction. And our entire demeanors, dispositions, and moods shift in perfect unison with our feelings toward God.
And dare we admit it? Our witness shifts downward as well. As Christian missionaries that God has sent into the enemy lines of politically correct, uncreative, cog-on-a-wheel corporate America, well, quite frankly we suck at the Great Commission. Yet we have the audacity to ask—“Why God? Why isn’t the earth shaking when one of your own is trapped in the soul-crushing prison of a dead-end job?”
And then there is Paul and Silas—stripped, beaten, severely flogged. In prison, feet locked in untreated wooden stocks, sitting on a dirty floor that doubles as the prison plumbing system, breathing stale hot air. Much different than the conditioned air and ergonomic chairs in a cubicle farm, or soft carpet on a retail floor, or cushioned seats of a rig, or the cleanliness standards of a restaurant chain.
Then about midnight, in what seems to us a dark hour, they praise God. Praying, singing hymns, witnessing to the glory and power of God—and all while the other prisoners listen. They aren’t focused on their circumstances. They are focused past them.
And in this unlikely sanctuary, who should show up but the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Mover and Shaker! He often shows up where Christians worship from the heart. Shaking prison foundations, opening prison doors, releasing prison chains, moving the heart of the unredeemed, and strengthening the heart of the redeemed. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1), the Old Testament prophecies of the mission of the coming Christ. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Free. Indeed.
Maybe the reason the Holy Spirit has not shaken the foundations of our prison is because of our failure to praise God in spite of the dark hours. Praising God is the key to opening prison doors. When we praise God despite our circumstances, things begin to move, rumble, and manifest. Praising God in difficult circumstances witnesses to others of the power and glory of the One who will shake the earth if that’s needed to make the chains of His imprisoned children fall to the ground.
Focus each day on praising God in spite of your circumstances. Ask God to empower you to praise His name despite an unfulfilling, soul-crushing job. Then dig your heels in the soft carpet, press into the cab cushions, or grab the handles of your ergonomic chair and hold on. You have cleared a path for the Divine Mover and Shaker to come blowing in.
God, I feel so stuck. I feel beaten and imprisoned with no way out. And I confess, in this situation, the last thing I feel like doing is praising you. But thank you God for always teaching me. This passage shows me the wrongness of my attitude. It is when we praise You, despite the circumstances, and serve as a living witness to those in same circumstances, that things begin to move. You loosen the chains that keep us in prison, and open the door for us to walk out. Oh please God, do not delay! And help me beginning right now, to have a Paul and Silas attitude. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.