“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening.” (Acts 16:25 CSB)
They certainly couldn’t sleep! Too much pain. Their feet were fastened in wooden stocks in a very painful position, making sleep impossible. That, plus the pain of the stripes on their backs, made a sleepless night inevitable for Paul and Silas. The other prisoners with them were in a similar situation, so they wouldn’t be sleeping either. So, Paul and Silas decided to pray and sing hymns.
I cannot help but wonder: What hymns? They didn’t exactly have a typical hymnal available at the moment. One possibility is that they sang hymns that were circulating among churches at the time. Some of these hymns eventually found their way into Scripture. If you use a newer version of the Bible and scan through the New Testament epistles and find texts that appear in poetry form and are not necessarily quotes from the Old Testament, those are very likely hymns. Romans 8:31-39 falls in that category. 1 Corinthians 13 is another. And there are many others.
Another possibility is that they just made the hymns up as they went. They could well have just sung their prayers.
A third possibility – and some call it a probability – is that they sang Old Testament psalms. After all, they were originally sung, and in synagogues today they still are sung.
Praying and singing is a wonderful way to deal with stressful situations. And in the case of Paul and Silas, the other prisoners were singing, so this helped not only them but the other prisoners in the sorrow they were going through. Plus, it provided them with a witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.
Then came a demonstration of that truth: a bone-jarring, door-opening earthquake. And that became the event of grace in the lives of many that night.
Lord, We thank You that we can pray and sing in any situation and be a blessing not only for ourselves but for those around us. Amen.