“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 (NIV)
About a month ago at church, our worship leader shared a word with the congregation. He referenced Paul and Silas and their time in prison – how God specifically told about when they were in prison, after having been beaten for sharing God’s Word with others, they chose to praise and worship their Father while shackled, not waiting until they were released.
That simple statement caught my attention because I had been feeling incredibly hopeless lately. I’d felt God tell me I needed to pray and fast for my family during this specific time period and it seemed as though circumstances were getting worse, not better. I felt as though I was in prison. As a result, I was giving into disappointment, fatigue and for a time, hopelessness.
During this period of hopelessness is when our worship leader spoke the above statement and I felt as though God was telling me, “I’m speaking to you, little one.” Truth was, I didn’t want to listen. I didn’t feel like praising and worshipping God for the circumstances our family was going through. I didn’t feel like thanking Him for even more bad news that seemed to come on an almost daily basis. I didn’t want to thank Him for the crazy schedules, the illnesses and potentially serious diseases we might be facing and I didn’t want to thank Him for the “prison.”
However, I realized that is exactly when God wants me to praise and worship. When I’ve lost hope, praising and worshipping God reminds me of the promises He has answered in the past and the promises He still wants to answer in the future. When I feel discouraged as though the trials won’t end, that is when God wants me to praise and worship Him because it gets my focus off the problems and back on Him, who takes cares of the problems.
So… I put into practice what God was nudging me in His oh-so-loving way to do. I started by repenting for not praising God always, because He deserves my praise and worship all the time, whether I feel as though I’m in prison or feel free. Then, I simply put on the radio. Our local Christian radio station is amazing and has wonderful songs. So with that playing in the background, as a song would draw my attention, I would offer it up as a prayer to God. Then I started looking around at the various ways God was blessing our family despite the “prison walls.” I notice that when I start paying attention, I see so many blessings I had missed or was ignoring before.
That’s when I noticed that my mood was changing. It didn’t happen immediately but soon I started to feel hopeful again. Focusing on God and His promises didn’t guarantee that all my prayers would be answered immediately or when answered, in the way I choose. Instead it aligns my heart with God’s will and I’m more able to delay gratification while still feeling hopeful about the future.
Do I know more now than I did a month ago as far as my future is concerned? Do I automatically have a promise that God is going to make life easier for our family? Nope. But I was reminded that God loves our family and wants the best for us, just like He does for all of His children. And whatever the future holds, God has it under control.
And all that came about when I was reminded how important it was to praise and worship God while in whatever prison I feel like I’m sitting in.
© Cheri Swalwell 2016