July 6, 2004 • By Ed Wrather
And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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. - Acts 16:23-26.
Gary McIntyre, forestry worker in the Laketon, New Brunswick area had a close encounter with a bear. It was not that surprising since Gary has had some problems with them in the past. This time, however, was different and much more frightening. The bear chased Gary up a tree and the bear came up the tree after him. He had to jump to another tree to escape and there he was trapped for over eight hours. Finally, the mother bear’s cub came down out of a nearby tree and the bears left. Gary said that he spent most of his time praying and thinking about his job and family.
The situation for the apostle Paul and Silas was at the least very uncomfortable having been beaten and placed in stocks. Also, they had no way of knowing whether they would be punished further or even executed. Their crime was that they had in the name of Jesus cast a demon out of a slave girl who had been following them around. The girl had been following them for many days crying out about them, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation (Acts 16:17b)." The owners of the slave were angered that the girl no longer had the spirit of divination because they made much money from her. Because of this, they grabbed Paul and Silas and took them to the local authorities saying, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe (Acts 16:20b-21).”
It was a desperate situation for Paul and Silas. It was also a desperate situation that Gary McIntyre found himself to be in with the bear. These men all did the right thing at the right time, they prayed! Paul and Silas not only prayed but they sang hymns praising God as well.
I have found that I’ve done some of my best praying in desperate situations. My prayers were not filled with many words; no, my prayers in those situations were filled with my heart. In those times of desperation there was no holding back, there was no trying to keep anything from God. At that point, I did not care what anyone else might think or want - all I wanted was to have God touch my life.
David in Psalm 141 and other psalms communicates well the desperation and the cry of help from the depths of his heart. Here we can see the prayer of a desperate man: “Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense… (Psalm 141:1-2a).” “But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute (Psalm 141:8).”
What if we were to pray in such a way every time we prayed? What if every prayer we prayed came from the depths of our hearts? Would not mountains be moved? “…for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20).” I think that Paul, Silas, David and Gary would all agree.