While watching church on TV the Sunday before last, the story was told of Paul and Silas. I thought how fitting a story it is to tie in with this blog post…
The Apostle Paul, missionary and writer of about half the New Testament of the Bible, was no stranger to hardships. Not only was he imprisoned numerous times, he was beaten, pelted with stones, shipwrecked more than once, without food and water for long periods of time, often on the run, and the list goes on.
In this particular story, Paul and his buddy, Silas, while on a missionary trip, were attacked by a crowd, stripped and beaten with rods, flogged, and thrown into prison. They were assigned their own guard and their feet were put in stocks (from Acts 16:22-24). Then there’s this: “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” Acts 16:25-26
Under these extremely harsh circumstances, it would have been understandable for these two men to grumble, complain, even curse God’s name. Instead, they sang. They praised Him!
Last year around this time, while I was really buckling down to complete my second book, while I was writing and researching, I came across a quote that really caught my eye. I didn’t use it in my book, but I did apply it to my life. The quote by Billy Graham goes like this, “I believe that the greatest form of prayer is praise to God.”
It’s a simple quote, nothing I hadn’t already heard or believed, but it spoke to me. It beckoned, “Try it.”
On a regular basis, I start praying with praise. Often, when I wake up—first things first, I thank God for a new day. Sometimes, before I even open my eyes, I lift His name on high, by giving Him credit for life and breath, a roof over my head, a comfortable bed, food in the fridge, clean running water, and so on. And then at some point after that, I fill His ears with all my requests. When I read this quote by Billy Graham, I felt led to put the requests aside for a little while. He is God after all, I thought, He knows what I, and those I pray for, need. I’ll admit it though, I’m a big “asker,” so I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
When my husband Chris, who is also my daily prayer partner, was away with my dad in Malawi last year, I thought it was perfect timing to try this plan to stop praying. Or, I should say, to stop asking. It indeed was not easy, to say the least; it was difficult to not ask for anything. But over the days, with practice, it got easier.
When I was tempted to ask for a friend’s healing, I instead praised God that He knew all about my friend and what she was dealing with, and I praised Him for His faithfulness to supply for all her needs. When I was tempted to ask God to provide the miracle another friend was desperately seeking, I instead applauded Him for being the inventor of miracles—a God able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask for, imagine or dream. For the sick, I thanked Him for being the great Physician. For the lonely, I thanked Him for being an exceptional companion. For the grief stricken, I thanked Him for being an outstanding source of comfort. And on it went. I quoted scripture and sang praise songs and hymns like, Great is Thy faithfulness, Oh God my Father… I didn’t even ask Him to forgive me when I was convicted of something I felt led to confess. Instead, I just simply whispered, “I am sorry.” And thanked Him for His forgiveness.
I was content knowing God has heard every prayer I’ve prayed throughout my life and that He has answered, or is answering each one according to His will. And like the birds of the air, even more so, He feeds you and me, and like the lilies of the field, he clothes us (from Matthew 6). And that His Spirit intercedes for us and strengthens us in our weakness (from Romans 8)… Again, another list in the making.
Those seven days were really something special. I was so humbled, my faith was strengthened, joy overflowed in me and I felt absolutely free! Which brings me back to Paul and Silas and the power of their singing: while they humbly praised God, prison doors opened and chains were broken. And what struck me is that all the prison doors were opened and all prisoners freed.
This incredible story goes on to tell us that they didn’t flee. They stayed put. When the jailer woke up and saw the doors open, thinking they had all escaped, he drew his sword in order to kill himself. Paul called out though, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
Then in verse 29-30 it says, “The jailer called for a light, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then 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…’” vs 31
It goes on to say that the jailer washed the men’s wounds, he fed them, and it says he was filled with joy because he and his whole family had come to believe in God.
Like my personal experience revealed to me, and what the strong evidence of this story reveals to all of us is, there is power in honouring God. It sets the praiser/prisoner free and even those around them listening. It produces joy and peace. It also has the power to save (like the jailer in the story). The thing about praise is that it magnifies God and it humbles us; it reminds us of our dependancy on Him. Praise also: invites His presence, pushes back darkness and depression, it leaves no room for grumbling or complaining and alleviates worry and fear.
To those who praise God, I encourage you to keep it up! To those who rarely do or never have, I just want to say, it’s not difficult. You can start by putting your mind on Him. Think of things you are grateful for, and simply say, “Thank you.” Give him the credit for life and breath, a roof over your head, a comfortable bed, food in the fridge, clean running water… And praise Him for His love that nothing can separate you from…
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love…” Apostle Paul, Romans 8:35-38
A few verses for us to refer to or quote in our daily praise:
“Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise You. I will praise You as long as I live, lifting up my hands to You in prayer.” Psalm. 63:3-4
“Come, and let us sing for joy to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.” Psalm 95:1
“Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.” Psalm. 103:2-4
Since Covid 19, Chris and I have been praying for the countries most affected, for everyone affected; all the medical professionals, essential service workers, government leaders; those grieving, those worried, those sick, afraid, anxious and isolated; those who have lost their jobs and those struggling to keep their businesses afloat; those without money and those without hope. So, needless to say, we are probably covering everybody.
We have also been praying that we (each one of us) will learn what it is we are meant to learn from this. The word “humility” keeps coming, among others. The situation we find ourselves in now, is very humbling, to say the least. Early on, it reminded me of my late husband, Mike. When he was diagnosed with ALS, he called it a humbling experience. He gave thanks for it because he said it would teach him to rely more on God.
A couple of weeks ago, I felt compelled to read a story from my first book to my Instagram and Facebook friends. It’s a story I wrote about Mike shortly after his ALS diagnoses, called, Mike’s Glass is Half Full. Many who tuned in, asked for more stories, so I’ve read a few more since then, and now this one. In that first post I wrote: “I call this story, A Glass Half Full… about the late and greatly inspiring Michael Sands… A humbling experience, plus a positive attitude and faith in God, equals hope and chins up.” (The picture at the top of the page is from my latest video.)
Mike was a big “give thanks in all circumstances” kind of guy, as was the Apostle Paul, who displayed it well in the story we just read about him and Silas in jail, and who wrote, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
So now, about another missionary, my dad, who’s birthday is today (March 30). We, his family, would like to wish our 82 year young missionary dad, grandpa, great grandpa, a very Happy Birthday. Because of restrictions on travel, Chris, Elanna, Dad and I were unable to go to Malawi like we had planned for mid-March, but thankfully the 4 wells were still drilled, which makes more than 50 wells drilled through dad’s and mom’s society, Project Wellness. Keep up the great work Dad! We are so proud of you and wish you another successful, hope-filled, joyful, healthy, safe and blessed year!
On the phone yesterday, Dad and I agreed, that we will continue to pray for a breakthrough with this Covid 19, and until then, we will keep trusting Jesus. God has a plan! Check out Dad’s Project Wellness website.