by Emily Conrad
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the rest of the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25 NET
This verse stood out to me as I was reading through Acts.
Singing to God
Paul and Silas weren’t just praising God in some offhanded way. They were singing to God.
Most people rarely break out in song to tell each other how they feel. Why? Even those with skill and training make mistakes. Plus, conveying feelings that way is extravagant. It takes a level of commitment.
About the only time anyone sings to me (or I sing to them) is on birthdays. This is fine with me, because it means I’m not singing solos. When I’m on the receiving end, I’m also glad it’s a rather rare occurrence because I feel like a spectacle that people are going so far out of their way to sing to me.
One of the only other times I’ve witnessed one person sing to another (outside of musicals), is when one of my brothers jokingly turns to my sister and serenades her with a few lines from a pop song. Just picturing the heartfelt look he manages makes me laugh to myself as I type.
Singing to a person is special.
Let’s not lose sight of how special a practice of singing to God ought be, too.
We aren’t just singing praise songs to the ceiling. We aren’t worshiping a distant, disinterested God. We aren’t just singing about God. If we let singing to God seem like or become any of those, we’re missing out.
God is living and active and good and worthy of praise. He’s also present.
You are holy;
you sit as king receiving the praises of Israel.
Psalm 22:3 NET
We’re not just singing into space with a vague hope of Him hearing. When we sing to God, He’s actively listening.
What an honor to sing to the greatest being and to know that He’s pleased not with a polished delivery, but rather with a heart that loves and longs for Him.
But the phrase singing to God isn’t the only reason I stopped to think when I reached this verse. As that part about other prisoners listening implies, Paul and Silas were in prison as they prayed and sang.
Not only that, but they had been imprisoned unfairly.
And also, they had been beaten… with rods.
All while going about their work, spreading the Good News.
I haven’t faced anything close to a trail of this magnitude, but even in my own bad experiences, when I feel beaten down, frustrated, and mistreated, I don’t naturally break out in song, especially not songs of praise.
Unfortunately, God hears our praises and our complaints. (See Exodus 16:12 for an example.) So, it’s important to approach Him with the right heart.
Prayer helps with this in my life, leading me to praise God and acknowledge His goodness and plan in words, even if not with song, but honestly, yes, sometimes, it’s a process to get there.
I don’t know what the journey toward singing to God looked like for Paul and Silas, but I do know they prayed and sang to God before the miracle.
Their decision to sing to God wasn’t contingent on Him miraculously delivering them from that jail. In fact, when they were freed, they didn’t run from the jail. They hung around to witness to the jailer and his family.
The Song Continues
All these centuries later, we’re still listening to their song. Maybe the tune and words are lost, but the trusting hearts, dedicated to serving their God no matter the cost, still ring loudly.
Their example is a reminder that even when I find myself in circumstances I’d never choose, God is worthy of praise. Though worship does encourage the worshiper, it’s not about us.
Praise is sung to the God who so loved us, He gave His son.
When we choose to worship in hard times, we acknowledge our troubles are nothing compared to our redemption.
Whatever else we suffer, we have been given light and life in Christ (see Psalm 36:9).
Grateful for this, let’s pick up Paul and Silas’s song, no matter what we face. Let’s praise His holy name as if He’s listening.
Because He is.
And very likely, as in Paul and Silas’s situation, others are listening and will benefit as well.
Like this post? Here’s another one inspired by Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail.