Before class began, one of the women asked me to pray for her because she had just finished a very difficult program designed to help her stay away from drugs once she was released.
She felt so good graduating from that program, but was faced with yet another difficulty. The prison system put her on farm duty, which meant she had to work outside for eight hours a day on a farm harvesting crops.
You know how hot it has been lately. We have had temperatures in the 100’s now for several straight weeks.
I really felt bad for this inmate. She is not a young girl and not in the best of health. I personally felt that it was not a good idea for her to be in that unbearable heat for eight hours.
The other inmates all had ideas on how she could get out of the farm work. I listened for a while and their ideas were all based on deception and rebellion.
Finally, I said, “Listen, ladies, I have a better idea. Why don’t we pray and ask God for His help in this situation. If you belong to Him, he will take care of you. Remember that Jesus Himself said, Apart from Me you can do nothing. And Paul reminded his followers that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So the only way to face any difficult situation is to take it to Jesus in prayer. We simply cannot face all the trials that this life serves us without Jesus. But with Our Lord in the situation His grace is sufficient for us.
So we spent some time asking God for His help for this inmate. God knows our frame and our limitations. He never leaves us or abandons us. Listen to this story of great faith in the book of Acts. Luke told this account of his friends Paul and Silas who were whipped with rods and then thrown into prison and chained so that they could not even move.
Luke says, As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to 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 everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
Paul and Silas were beaten and chained up in a prison because Paul cast a demon out of a young girl who was being used by certain men to earn money. Once the demon was cast out the girl was useless to those evil men. So they threw The apostle Paul and Silas in prison. Now that was a very difficult situation to be in. But how did those godly men respond. They prayed.
There are three things I see in this story that we can apply to our lives and situations.
The place of prayer in the life of a believer. Paul, Silas and Luke were on their way to pray. Prayer was the greatest work that these men did. Without prayer, their work was empty and powerless. God has given us a great privilege — the gift of prayer — the opportunity to talk directly with Him, the Creator of the universe.
To ask Him for help in our time of need, to thank Him for His blessings, to seek His forgiveness for our sins, and to plead for the life of our loves ones. What a gift!
We can’t even approach our president to ask for help when we need it. And he is only a man just like us. There is no chance in the world to get an audience with the Queen of England, and she is only a woman, just like us.
But we can come directly into the throne room of heaven and approach Almighty God. He will never turn us away. He always has time for us. We don’t even need an appointment. We don’t have to call ahead of time to make sure He’s home.
We just come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, as Hebrews 4:16 says. When Paul and Silas were chained up in the prison cell, bloody and bruised from the beating they had just endured, they couldn’t sleep, they wouldn’t complain, and they refused to lose hope.
Their hearts were filled with praise for the God they knew was with them. The Scripture says, At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.
In the worst of conditions, these men were praying and praising God. What an example for us. We are probably never going to be beaten and chained and imprisoned. We are comfortably settled in our homes. Yet how many of us neglect this great privilege of prayer.
The second thing I see in this story was the result of the men’s prayer. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. It was a miracle! God sent an earthquake to break the chains and set them free.
Our prayers reach to God’s throne. He hears our weakest plea for help. He will not turn a deaf ear to our prayers! When the Israelites cried out to Him to deliver them from slavery in Egypt, He told Moses, I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. Ex 3:7. God told Moses that He was coming down to deliver them out of the land of slavery and bring them into a good and large land a land flowing with milk and honey.
And then finally, I see the effect of our prayers on others. The jailer whose life was in jeopardy if the prisoners escaped, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, and he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
The Jailer recognized the hand of God in their release from their chains. And he wanted in. Whatever power was responsible for the earthquake, he knew was the Almighty power and he wanted to be a part of that. He had heard the prayers and singing the Paul and Silas were doing at midnight. He knew they were not just ordinary prisoners. These were men whose words were heard by the One True God of Heaven! And he wanted to be a part of that family. In fact his whole family became believers in Jesus and were baptized.
This difficult situation turned into such a blessing not only for Paul and Silas, but for a family that were lost in sin and hopelessness. It all began with prayer and it all finished in prayer.
Do you know what The female prisoner who feared working at the farm said after we prayed? She said “I know God is in control and even if I died of the heat, I know where I will go and I am not afraid.” That’s what prayer does. Prayer stabilizes us, gives us hope, helps us to see our situation from God’s eyes, not our own, settles our hearts so that we can truly believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
~written by a R.O.C. volunteer
Update: The lady was taken off of the farm crew a week later. God answered her prayer.