“Do you really believe prayer works?” she asked me.
Knowing she wasn’t a believer in much of any kind of faith, had not really prayed since she was a child, I kept my words few, ‘Yes, I do ~ I really do.’ Then, when the time was right, I briefly told her what I told you in the last few days… I have seen God do the miraculous in answer to prayer.1 But I brought this up now because this is the first we see of the man Paul and prayer.
So, we were in the middle of the book of Acts when suddenly I launched into all this talk about prayer--answered prayer, that is, and even miracles. True. And I made it personal. Also true. To just talk about prayer in theory really doesn’t mean a whole lot--yet to see the results of prayers uttered, to see the hand of God move, certainly inspires! It compels us to pray and to be persistent in prayer, not to give up.
Fact is, prayer and reading the Word of God go hand in hand if we are to grow in our faith. One without the other and we are incomplete; we are weak. It was in the start of Acts chapter 16, Paul’s second missionary journey, where he went into Philippi, ostensibly looking for the synagogue to preach the Gospel. When he could not find a synagogue, he went out to the river where ‘he found a place of prayer.’ He found Lydia and some other women, and upon telling Lydia about faith in Jesus Christ, Lydia believed and she was baptized! (How convenient that they were next to a river, right?)
But as we look over Paul’s shoulder, we see him going back to pray at the river. Note to self: Paul himself believed in the power of prayer--this is the first we are learning about that. One day near the river, he cast a demon out of a slavegirl who had made her owners a lot of money telling people’s future. No demon, no fortune or future telling, and the owners were ticked! They dragged Paul and Silas before government officials, saying “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews! …They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” A lie.
A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods.They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
Stop! Do not keep reading until you grasp this: Paul and Silas are unjustly seized, falsely accused, stripped naked and beaten with rods, thrown in prison, their feet locked into stocks.
Look with me at how the beaten, bloodied prisoners then behave: Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. [Moved by their actions and the gospel Paul taught, the jailer believed!!] Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.2
Does prayer really work? Yes. Paul was a man of prayer, quite clearly, as he had gone out to the river to pray. But then he (along with Silas of course) does the unthinkable --after being mercilessly tortured, they pray some more and they also sing praises to God!
And God? Well he comes in response. He comes and does what only he can do--causes an earthquake which results in the jailer and his family coming to believe the life-saving message of Jesus Christ. Man, I love a good story, and this one has it all!
Prayer + Praise paves the way for a miracle which results in the salvation of a family! And once again, the crowd goes wild…all about midnight.
prayer really works... because God loves us so much,
1 - about how God miraculously healed Danny
2 - Acts 16.20-34