Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Acts 16:25 (NLT)
Paul and Silas hadn't done anything wrong. They had gone to the place God had sent them. They had faithfully preached the message God had given them. They had even set a slave girl free from an evil spirit. Where did it get them? Prison. That's right. They obeyed God and ended up in prison. That's not the way it is supposed to be, or is it? Jesus said those who are his followers will be hated, persecuted, arrested and even killed so it should not surprise us when we face adversity in some way. It should surprise us when we don't.
I first heard this story about Paul and Silas when I was a young girl and then as now, their response to their imprisonment made a great impact on me. The "normal" response would have been anger, resentment and probably even fear but Paul and Silas were not just anybody. They were followers of Jesus Christ and therefore did not do what was "normal" in the eyes of the world. They had a prayer meeting.
Try to imagine for a moment, that you are a first century prisoner. Conditioners are bad. No doubt it is dark and dank. There were no "human rights" advocates to make sure you were receiving proper care. If anyone objected to your being tortured, well, they might very well find themselves taking your place. The only things you are accustomed to hearing are screams, pleas for mercy, crying and curses.
Then one night, a different sound is emitted from a cell. It is the sound of prayer and praise. What?
You might not be in a physical prison cell but the people in the world around you are listening and they are watching you. I was never made so much aware of that than when I was diagnosed with cancer nine and a half years ago. A few weeks after my diagnosis, members of the faculty and staff at my school began stopping me, wanting to know why I wasn't acting "normal". In their own words, they would be "freaking out", yet there was a peace surrounding me that they did not understand. If I was in denial about my situation they might have understood that I was being delusional but it was obvious that was not the case. What was the secret of my peace and joy? What was meant for evil, gave me another opportunity to share the power of Christ.
You never know who is listening.
Scripture quotation from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.