First Glance: Acts 16:16-40


Traditional site of prison in Philippi where Paul and Silas were held. Photo by Lisa Plymale
Traditional site of prison in Philippi where Paul and Silas were held.
Photo by Lisa Plymale

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. – Acts 16:25

Paul and Silas have found themselves in quite a conundrum. They spent the last several days being followed around by a young girl who had a spirit in her. She kept shouting about their status as servants of the Most High God and that they came to tell how people could be saved. Paul initially tolerated the girl, perhaps because what she said was true, but eventually the constant shouting caused him to become annoyed and he ordered the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” The spirit immediately left her, as did the girl’s owners’ hope of making money off of her “gift.” Furious, the owners have Paul and Silas stripped, beaten, and thrown into prison. Bound by chains they sit in the darkness of the inner cell.

Try putting yourself in their shoes. You’ve faithfully been preaching to people about Jesus and the salvation He brings. You’ve freed a slave girl from the torment of a spirit. You’ve been stripped naked, beaten with rods, and now sit chained up in prison. You’d probably think Paul and Silas had every right to feel sorry for themselves and sit their in despair. However, they respond quite differently. They remember God’s word in the psalms:

In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
    that I may keep your law.

Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
    I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks
    for your righteous laws. – Psalm 119:55,61-62

Rather than sorrowing their situation, Paul and Silas pray and sing hymns to God at midnight, just as the psalmist taught them. They remained faithful to God’s word. They didn’t doubt God or His plans, but rather put their hope and trust in God’s word. I wonder if they prayed and sang parts of the Hallel…

Return to your rest, my soul,

    for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,

    my eyes from tears,

    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord

    in the land of the living.

I trusted in the Lord when I said,

    “I am greatly afflicted” – Psalm 116:7-10

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies. – Psalm 118:5-7

 In Acts 16:16 we read that Paul and Silas were going to the place of prayer. Now again, we find them in prayer. In every situation they go to God in prayer. They keep the faith. They trust in God. They hope in the coming of their Saviour.

I have so much to learn from Paul and Silas. How often do I fret and worry about the future, rather than giving it over to God. How often do I fall into despair when facing a difficulty rather than turn to God. How often do I forget to praise God for the many gifts He has given.

Where are you today? How does God’s Word speak into your situation? How is God calling you to pray?

2 thoughts on “First Glance: Acts 16:16-40

Add yours

  1. We often use the Psalms for prayer, but if you are in a bad situation you can choose a few different Psalms. Still Jesus sang the Hallel too. ‘What can man do to me” wow, Paul is behaving as a disciple should. No matter how bad the situation is apply God’s word


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: