Posted in theology

How could Paul Sing in Jail?

By Elizabeth Prata

In Acts 16, Paul was followed by a slave girl who made much money for her owner by telling fortunes. She kept hollering after Paul and his group, and vexed Paul very much. Finally he cast the demon out of her, and that was that.

Or not. For when her owners saw their means of gain was gone, they beat Paul. Magistrates threw him and Silas in jail. (Acts 16:19-24). Not just jail, but “inner prison”.

Inner prison in Rome was a dungeon below ground. Reeking and damp, wet, dripping with septic (since all excrement travels downwards), rats, gloomy darkness, and feet in stocks, immobile, bound, and tossed away with the door clanking shut.

Yet they sang.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God... (Acts 16:25).

The scene is often used as an example of how, having the Spirit, one can and should rise above physical circumstance. Peace that passes all understanding allows one to cast one’s eyes heavenward and sing His glories even while terrible things might be happening to you.

And it’s true.

But the boots on the ground is a bit harder to adjust to. Your child has been diagnosed with a fatal cancer. Your mother has Alzheimer’s. Your finances are at bankruptcy level and you’re in danger of losing your home. You live in a nation where Christians are persecuted and you’re actually in a dank jail for the Name, separated from your wife and not knowing where your children even are.

You might be thinking, ‘Yah, well, Paul had megadoses of the Spirit and he could do what I’m unable to do…’ or, ‘Well, it was Bible times, times were different then.’

When adversity hits me, I myself struggle to cast my eyes upward and retain the joy that is set before me, the joy that IS Christ. For me, it’s hard to find the good during the circumstance that’s happening. Afterward, I always praise God, for usually I see His working of grace in it. Even if that grace is presently hidden, I praise Him because I know it is there, through trust. But while it is happening? Harder.

Twitter of late had become a bit wearying. I’d had a couple of smaller adverse circumstances occur. I was feeling downcast. I was looking around for the light. Then a situation happened which the Lord ordained and then used for His glory. Light shone in blazing glory.

Last Sunday, Pastor and President of Founders Ministries Tom Ascol collapsed while praying in church. He fell to the floor and was unresponsive for a good while. He was taken out of the church in front of the congregation to the hospital by ambulance. It looked like the pastor was dead, or soon would be.

There were several updates about what happened issued from officials in the church, but two updates in particular encouraged me and I hope they will encourage you. Pastor Ascol’s friend and partner at their podcast The Sword & The Trowel, Jared Longshore, published a 9-minute podcast of what happened in Ascol’s words. Then Ascol himself sent out a short note.

The glory given to God and the circumstance itself being all of His grace was very uplifting. The Lord himself truly IS the peace that passes all understanding. All situations that happen are for His glory and our good. Who knows the ultimate objective the Lord had in the pastor’s collapse. But one of them surely must be Ascol’s grace-filled and glorifying-to-God attitude, a good example of Paul’s singing in jail.

Pastor Jared Longshore’s moving and uplifting 9-min podcast message, please listen!

Tom Ascol’s encouraging note

Immanuel, God with us. He truly is with us. In all circumstances.



Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.