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April 3, 2016

"PRAYER AND PRAISE AT MIDNIGHT"

TEXT: Acts 16: 25 (Read vv. 16-34)
READING:
 Psalm 77: 1-20

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SUBJ: Suffering and the ability to pray and praise as witnesses in the example of Paul and Silas as well as the effect seen in those who heard.

AIM: That we might be so tuned to the grace of God that our prayers under any circumstances might break forth into joyous song.

INTR: This is one of the better known narratives in the New Testament and well it should be in that a marvelous pattern for witness and profession is set forth.
1. While the usual focus in dealing with this text is the Jailer and his conversion, we would turn the spotlight on the men in the innermost part of the prison.
2. We would be careful to note that oft times the persons and circumstances leading up to a momentous event are themselves full of instruction and reason to acknowledge the God of all grace.
3. So it here that we would call to witness the thoughts, actions and praises of Paul and Silas that we might be challenged to ever be about the matter of being fully given over to the Lord in any and all circumstances.

THESIS: The ability to pray and sing springs not from a matter of talent or practice. It is rather the normal thing where the Spirit of God indwells to energize and empower the consciousness of the presence of Christ at all times.

I. The cause of their incarceration (vv. 16-24)
1. The story is but one of many in which the providence of God confounds the designs of the evil one and turns the whole matter to His glory.
2. In the same since that the Lord “must needs go through Samaria,” it was necessary for Paul and Silas to pass through a Macedonian prison.
1) It was certainly not a matter of their own choosing, but they soon saw it as from the Lord.
2) At this time they had come to realize that suffering was part of the ordeal.
3. It is certain that when the matter of the perceived riches of this present world come in conflict with the matters of faith that the forces of evil rise to meet it with violence and such is the case here.
4. What followed was but one of many incidents – Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 2 Corinthians 11:24. This was yet another since these were not Jews.
5. The soul of that young woman meant nothing to those who profited from here horrible bondage!!

II. The reason of their incarceration (vv. 25-26)
1. John Newton gives us two perspectives in his hymn:
How tedious and tasteless the hours/ When Jesus no longer I see! Sweet prospects sweet, sweet birds and sweet flowers,/Have all lost their sweetness for me. The midsummer sun shines but dim; The fields strive in vain to look gay; But when I am happy with Him, December’s as pleasant as may.
Content with beholding His face, My all to His pleasure resigned, No changes of season or place/ Would make any change in my mind: While blest with a sense of His love/ A palace a toy would appear; And prisons would palaces prove, If Jesus would dwell with me there.
2. Newton might have been thinking on the plight of the Apostle and his companion at the time!
3. We would note these things:
1) Their condition – injured (maimed and unattended) in stocks and in the darkness of midnight without even so much as the light of the moon – no friend in sight!
2) Their constraint – They prayed (we might easily imagine the things for which they prayed). Certainly their condition was an issue for it seemed no gospel was to be heard but
i. They prayed unto God and
ii. As the words indicate their praying led them to sing praises unto God (probably Psalms of praise) leading us to
iii. Understand that the Gospel will not be suppressed by the works of men.
3) The prisoners heard – Not the expected sounds in the night and certainly not from the source, but how sweetly does the suffer sing in that His Lord is so near and dear at the time!
4) How effectually then does the suffering His cross become manifest!

III. The outcome of their incarceration (vv. 27-34)
1. When sufficient time of prayer and singing had elapsed the Lord manifested His presence and the intended outcome. We marvel at the Lord’s timing:
1) They had suffered the rigors of the prison for the proper amount of time
2) The other prisoners had heard praying that was acceptable before God and had heard the song of the redeemed.
3) It was time for another to be awakened to his hopeless condition and come to faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2. The desperate condition of the jailer was witnessed in that he believed that prisoners were lost but was arrested by the Love of God as was manifested in Paul and Silas.
1) Of note is the fact that the prisoners made no attempt to escape having likewise been under divine supervision!
2) And the ultimate declaration of faith is manifested in the life of the jailer.
3. We make no mistake even the suffering of the Lord’s people is of design and yields the precious fruit of righteousness in both the sufferer and the witnesses to it!
4. And Jesus Christ is honored in their identity with Him!!