Praising God in Fetters
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely. Acts 16:23
suggested further reading: Psalm 5
Even when Paul and Silas lay bound with fetters, they lauded God in prayer. So it appears that neither the reproach they suffered, nor the stripes that made their flesh smart, nor the stink of the deep dungeon, nor the danger of death that was at hand, could hinder them from giving thanks to the Lord joyfully and with glad hearts.
We must note the general rule here that though we find it difficult to pray as we ought, we must praise God. For though the desire to pray arises from feeling our want and miseries, and therefore is, for the most part, joined with sorrow and carefulness, yet the faithful must so bridle their affections that they do not murmur against God. The right form of prayer, then, joins two affections: care and sorrow, by reason of the present necessity which keeps us down; and joyfulness, by reason of the obedience whereby we submit ourselves to God, and by reason of the hope which, showing us the haven nigh at hand, refreshes us even in the midst of shipwreck.
That is the form that Paul prescribes to us. He says to us, let your prayers be made known to God with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). But note the circumstances of this teaching. The pain of his stripes were grievous, prison was troublesome, and dangers were great, but in all this, Paul and Silas ceased not to praise God. We gather by this how greatly they were encouraged to bear the cross. So Luke reports that the apostles rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of the Lord (Acts 5:41).
for meditation: Isn’t it true that our prayers in times of terrible suffering and trouble easily become little more than complaints? Rather than praising God and humbly asking that his will be done, we use prayer as a forum to air our grievances against him. Paul and Silas did otherwise. Though their sufferings are great, they praise him in prayer and song. Remember his example when you next turn to God during a particularly troublesome time.