Acts 16:23-26 "And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
(24) Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
(25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
(26) And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed."
This Bible story begins the unjust arrest of Paul and Silas. Because they had cast a spirit of divination out of a girl, the local Philippian authorities beat them and then threw them into a jail cell. Besides the trauma of the severe beating, they were fastened in stocks which clamped their arms and legs in an immobile position, causing cramps and loss of circulation. The atmosphere there was depressing. According to the standards of that day, a prison was more like the resemblance of a dungeon. A dark, damp, stench-ridden place, with no facility for waste or comforts of any kind.
Yet, in spite of the throbbing pain in their bodies and the disheartening atmosphere, at midnight Paul and Silas were heard praying and singing praises to God! What a strange sound this must have been to the other prisoners, who were used to only hearing the groans or cursings of those who had been beaten.
Then suddenly, there was an earthquake that shook the prison! The doors flung open, and amazingly, the bonds of Paul, Silas, and every other prisoner were released! What caused this mighty discharge of power?
Praise Elevates us into God's Presence and Power
Paul and Silas knew the secret of how to lift their hearts above their troubles and enter into God's presence and power. Through praise and worship their hearts were raised into the joyous presence and peace of God, and provided God a channel for his power to operate in their circumstances.
The Bible says that God inhabits in the praises of His people (Psalms 22:3). In other words, God "dwells" in the atmosphere of His praise. This means that praise is not merely a reaction from coming into His presence - Praise is a vehicle of faith which brings us into the presence and power of God! Praise and worship is the "gate-pass" which allows us to enter the sacredness of His glory. The psalmist writes, "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Psalms 100:4).
This corresponds with Jesus' teaching, that His presence will inhabit the gathering of believers who congregate in His name: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). A "gathering in His name" means that Jesus must be the focus, the center of the assemblage. He must be the one preached about, sung about - the one praised and worshiped. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee" (Hebrews 2:12). Consequently, Christ's presence, along with His virtue and anointing, is manifested in this type of gathering.
Have you ever noticed when "gifts of the Spirit" operate in a church service? The power and anointing of the Holy Spirit usually becomes evident, subsequent to a time of worship and praise. Some think that worship is a response after the Holy Spirit moves upon them. However, it's the other way around. God's presence responds when we move upon Him with worship! Lifting up Jesus Christ through praise and worship invokes the Lord's presence and power to flow in our midst.
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