God, Jesus, Prayer, Trials, Uncategorized

Praising God in Prison

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“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,”

Luke 4:18, NIV

 

Have you ever been in a prison? Maybe you, or a loved one has served time in prison. I was in a prison once as a little girl, watching my mom’s tap dance group perform for the inmates. I don’t recall giving it much thought at the time, or being fearful. They were trying to do some good for the incarcerated.

Prisons are terrible places. They are supposed to be. They are designed to punish. Prisoners spend countless hours inside tiny cells. Freedom is gone. Our modern American prisons look like a hotel stay compared to the old Roman ones. Ancient Roman prisons were horrific.

The most famous Roman prison can still be visited today. It is located just outside the Forum Romanum buried at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. It was Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, who, sometime during his reign (640-616 BC) constructed this dark, damp and foreboding subterranean structure.¹

Roman historian Sallust described it as about twelve feet deep into the ground. “Its appearance is disgusting and vile by reason of the filth, the darkness and the stench.” It was into this room, 6 1/2 ft. high, thirty feet long and twenty-two feet wide, that prisoners who had been condemned to die either by strangulation or starvation were thrown. One attributes the phrase “to be cast into prison” had its origins here.²

Roman prisons were not used to punish criminals, but instead served only to hold people awaiting trial or execution.

 

Paul and Silas in Prison

While in Philippi, a slave girl who had a spirit that could predict the future was following Paul, Silas, and their entire group.

17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. (Acts 16:17-18, NIV)

The slave girl’s owners were angry since she made them a lot of money. They grabbed Paul and Silas, and brought them to the authorities. (Acts 16:19)

20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” (Acts 16:20-21, NIV)

The crowd goes crazy and joins the attack against Paul and Silas. They are flogged, and thrown into the inner cell of the prison. Their feet were placed in stocks. (Acts v.22-24)

Paul and Silas were wrongfully accused, stripped, beaten, and severely flogged. Their backs would have been bloody, raw and ripped to shreds. The pain would have been unimaginable. After being beaten, almost to death, they are thrown into a horrible Roman prison. Things were looking bleak. If that were me, I would have given up. I would have asked, “Where are you God?” “You have abandoned us.” “You don’t care.”

Paul and Silas never curse God.

Paul and Silas never question God’s will or His plan.

Paul and Silas never give up.

Paul and Silas trust God.

Paul and Silas pray and sing hymns to God!

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 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. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:25-28, NIV)

And the best, most exciting part is God did a miracle! All the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. Not just Paul’s and Silas’ chains. Every prisoner who was in the prison that night experienced a miracle. Their chains came loose. Prison doors flew open. What were all these prisoners thinking? What were Paul and Silas thinking? I can only imagine the unexpected joy they all must have felt. God showed up mightily.

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. (Acts 16:29-33,NIV)

In the morning Paul and Silas get released and everybody lives happily ever after. At least for that moment.  If you want to read the entire story it’s Acts 16:16-40.

Because of being wrongfully accused, beaten to near death, and thrown in prison, a bunch of people accepted Jesus Christ as savior. Paul and Silas remained faithful. God answered their prayers and did a miracle. The jailer, and his entire family, and all other occupants in his house got saved. Who knows how many of those prisoners and guards came to know Jesus as their savior. They all witnessed a miracle. How could you not be forever changed. They experienced the mighty hand of God.

Do you have chains of affliction? Are you in your own kind of prison? You’ve prayed, and prayed, yet feel trapped. Hopeless. You stopped praying. Stopped believing.

Your prison has a purpose. God wastes absolutely nothing. Whether you put yourself there by your choices, or circumstances out of your control put you in that prison, God is still able to make a way. He opens prison doors.

God is a chain breaker.  

If you are bound up in chains then pray, and sing hymns to God. Look to Him. Declare the truth of His word over your life and circumstance. Surrender everything to God and wait to see what He does with your mess. No one can do for you what God can. Keep trusting Him.

Jesus came to set prisoners free. 

 

Father God,

I love you and praise you. Thank you for being in the miracle business. There is none like you. I lift up every person who is in chains right now. They are trapped in their own prison. Comfort them. Reveal yourself to them. Open those prison doors and loose those chains. Set all those captive, free. And for those in actual prison, set them free too. Even if they have years left of incarceration, they can still experience your freedom. Come Lord Jesus to the prisons, and to homes, and hearts. You came to set all of us free.

In Jesus mighty name,

Amen!

 

 

Love you all,

Meghan

 

 

Photo credit Pixabay Desertrose7

  1. &  2. https://www.unrv.com/government/roman-prisons.php

 

Faith, God, Jesus, Prayer, Uncategorized

My Prayer Closet

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Joshua made this card for me at church when he was seven. I love it because he made it, and because of the misspelling of “Lord”. That makes it all the more beloved. It shows the pureness of his heart. No spellcheck. No concern over spelling errors or perfection. It’s about the message, “Wait for the Lard”….I mean, “Lord”. He handed it to me with pride and joy for Mother’s Day. That’s the stuff that melts a mama’s heart. This precious card sits at the top of the bulletin board in my closet. I see it every single day.

My prayer closet is my actual closet. That sweet card sits among a few other little treasures that encourage me as I kneel and pray. There are pictures of my boys as toddlers, a picture of me and Tom as newlyweds, a few special cards from my husband, and a card or two from friends and family. It’s my hideout where I close the door and talk or cry out to God.

I have been flat on my face in deep pain asking God where He was. I have lifted my hands in praise thanking Him for His faithfulness. I have asked for wisdom, answers, direction, help, mercy, and forgiveness. I have laid on my back with tears streaming down my face. Looking up. Hoping for something from God to relieve the suffering. There’s plenty of room for me to stretch out. It’s all my space since Tom has his own closet.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8, NIV)

The Greek word tameion means “an inner chamber”. This doesn’t mean we all need to have a prayer closet or special “prayer room”. It means you need to be in a quiet, uninterrupted place. Praying to the Father requires focus and no distractions, if possible. There are plenty of times when we pray in crazy moments of chaos. We can and should pray at all times. “Pray continually,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NIV).

It’s important to set aside some time each day to pray. You can use a “prayer closet” if you’ve got the space, or almost anywhere can become that sacred space. When I commuted to work years ago before having children, I would pray in my car. Some people walk and pray. Many times I sit in my living room. Supposedly John Wesley’s (founder of the Methodist movement) mother, Susanna, would pull her apron over her face and pray.  The point is not where, it’s who you’re talking to.

When we first moved to Texas over six years ago we stayed in a hotel. There was no privacy, so I would go into the tiny bathroom to pray. Not pretty, but God knew my heart. He wants our heart. Not perfect, beautiful “prayer rooms” with the right Christian words in our prayers. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8, NIV) Be honest with God when you pray. He already knows what we need and we can be simple and direct in our words with humility.

I have several scraps of paper on my bulletin board in my closet. Each with a Bible verse I scrawled out during our two months in the hotel. They remind me what God has done in the past and what He will do again. That is a nice benefit of having a designated prayer space. You can personalize it with scriptures or whatever is needed to keep focused on God. I also have a list I keep written out of things Tom and I are praying for that’s taped to the wall in my closet. I cross things out as they get answered.

The point to all of this is pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. And then pray some more. When we quiet ourselves before the Lord we have the marvelous opportunity to hear His voice. Listening to God is just as important as talking to Him. Expect an answer in His time. That’s always the hardest part of praying, at least for me it is. I want an immediate answer. We have to wait. Just like Joshua’s card, “Wait for the Lord”. So many times I have been praying for the same thing, and waiting, and waiting. Then I look up and see that card with the faith of a child and I’m encouraged.

Love you all,

Meghan