“Having received this order, [the jailer] put [Paul and Silas] into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and 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 bonds were unfastened.”
– Acts 16:24-26, ESV
To say praise is important in the Bible would be a great understatement. If you need convincing, just read through the book of Psalms and count how many times praise and singing are referenced. Then, when you’re done counting, remember that the entire book of Psalms was meant to be sung. Needless to say, praise is something that is very important to God and His congregation. But what happens when you’re placed in a situation where you can’t sing out at the top of your lungs? What do we do if we find ourselves in situations like Paul and Silas?
This past summer I had the opportunity to go on missions to Asia Minor. One of the greatest differences from this mission trip from others in past years was how we praised. I had the opportunity to go to Myanmar and Utah in previous years, and the praise sessions from those experiences are definitely among the most memorable and impactful. But in Asia Minor, there were no open air praise sessions or large gatherings of believers who sang so loudly that passersby on the street would stop and listen. All of our praise sessions were behind closed doors, and the largest of our gatherings was probably about thirty people. Yet, we still praised. Despite some of the sessions only having a guitar and the voices of ten people, there is no doubt in my mind that we sang our hearts out.
How genuine our praise is does not depend on the volume of which we sing. As a praise leader, this was something I always used as a standard to determine just how genuinely the congregation was worshipping. But nowhere in the Bible does it say this. The only thing the Bible commands us is to just sing, period. If we as believers are singing, the only one who can truly know if we are worshipping is God. But when we do genuinely sing and praise God, something in the atmosphere changes. When we sang songs like “God of This City” and “Open Heaven (River Wild),” songs that reflected months of prayer and crying out to God, suddenly it didn’t matter if we were off-key or had tears streaming down our faces. Suddenly, one of the most public acts of worship, that is praise, became something so intimate and personal with God.
Like Paul and Silas, not only did we continue to sing because God commanded us to, we sang because it reminded us of why we were there and gave us hope. On days where physical exhaustion and sickness on top of spiritual battles broke us down, the one thing that could always lift our spirits was to hear each other sing. And through the encouragement of one another, we were able to go out onto the college campuses and be an encouragement to the people, just like Paul and Silas. In a land so devoid of hope, we sang for the hope of Christ to fill this land. In a land where the haunting notes of the Muslim call to prayer reminded us five times a day that Satan’s grip over this country was strong, we sang beautiful melodies of Christ’s victory. In a land so devoid of God’s praises, we sang. Like Paul and Silas, we knew that through the power of praise and prayer, that the Holy Spirit would work through us to reach the hearts of those in Asia Minor. We had hope that the very foundations of this country would be shaken and that God would bring breakthrough to this country. It’s why we sang and it’s why we continue to sing. And we’re never going to stop singing.