Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! – Acts 16:25-26 (NLT)
Have you ever been summoned before?
I have. Twice.
In case you’re unaware or unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, a summons is a (usually written) order to appear before a judge or magistrate. You can receive a summons to appear for a legal matter of some kind, such as jury selection.
The latter example is what has happened to me on those two occasions. I received a summons in the mail letting me know that I needed to appear at the local courthouse for jury selection. I had no idea why I was selected, what the prospective case was about, or whether or not I would be chosen. I just knew I had to show up to the location on a particular date and time because I was summoned.
In many ways, this is what took place in Acts 16:25-26…
For context, Paul and Silas were on a missionary journey to the ancient city of Philippi. Upon arriving in the city, they met a slave girl who was possessed by an evil spirit that enabled her to tell the future. This young girl immediately recognized the power of God within Paul and Silas, so she followed them around the city shouting and semi-harassing them. After several days of this persisting, Paul had had enough and he cast out the demon, freeing her from her oppression!
Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, sort of.
Because she was a slave, her masters saw an opportunity to capitalize on her ability so they sold her “services” for their own financial gain. Once she lost that ability, her masters lost their income and they were not happy about it. They quickly caused a commotion, leading to Paul and Silas being beaten, arrested, and thrown in a prison cell, which is where we find them in verses 25-26. (I know this story sounds nuts, but trust me, it’s worth reading in its entirety. You can find it here.)
While in prison, Paul and Silas resort to something that most of us wouldn’t consider priority #1 or even “important” given their circumstances…
They held a worship service!!
Despite it being the middle of the night and both Paul and Silas having their feet clamped and shackled, verse 25 tells us that they were praying and singing hymns while other prisoners were listening! This impromptu worship gathering was beyond unconventional, but it also led to something supernatural.
Following their praise and worship, verse 26 says there was an earthquake so powerful that it busted open every prison gate and broke off the chains and shackles binding the prisoners!
In that moment, the supposed powers that held Paul, Silas, and all other prisoners in place were no match for the physical, demonstrable, manifestation of God! They prayed and sang, and the Holy Spirit appeared in a powerful way to free them from the chains that previously bound them.
Clearly, worship was not the wrong or misguided response in that situation. And that makes sense. When we worship, God shows up!
Worship is like a spiritual summons, calling on God’s Spirit to appear in this place.
Your worship is an invitation to God to meet you where you are, no matter the time of day, location, or the circumstance. Worship is a declaration from the soul, crying out, “God, I see you. I need you. I trust you. I’ll follow you.”
And when God sees a heart like that, He cannot help but respond to it! And although I do not pretend to fully understand or know the mechanics of how or why, I do know that the Holy Spirit is compelled to respond to our worship. (This is exactly what David experienced and wrote about in Psalm 51:17.)
So if you’re looking for ways to activate the Holy Spirit in your life, then let me encourage you to practice intentional and meaningful worship apart from our normal Sunday worship gatherings. Make your own time to worship God throughout the week.
The beautiful thing about worship is that you can literally do it anywhere and at any time. You can worship in your home. You can worship on your commute. You can worship in your car. You can worship at the park. You can worship God at the office. You can worship God on vacation. (I’ll stop there before I begin to sound too much like Dr. Seuss, ha!)
So why not call on the Holy Spirit and activate His presence that way?
Why reserve, or restrict, it to Sundays between 11am-12pm?
Why not summon the Holy Spirit as often as you can?