Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The overflow of singing praises amid great difficulties has tremendous spiritual power. Paul and Silas set the biblical pattern in the prison in Philippi (Acts 16).
Helen Berhane spent almost three years in the shipping container prisons of Eritrea. In her book Song of the Nightingale, she shares about the first time she and other women were put in an old metal shipping container that was very hot and filled with fleas and lice:
Everyone was very despondent, and many of the women were angry. They asked me what we should do and I knew they were expecting me to say that we should shout or bang the container, to let our captors know that we were not going to tolerate this treatment. But I remembered… [reading] about how Christians, like nightingales, could not be prevented from singing even in captivity, and I suggested that we sing: “We should praise God in spite of the fleas, in spite of the lice, in spite of the heat. We should thank God despite our circumstances.” So I began to sing with them, and pray, and share the Word of God from memory.
Pastor Ung Sophal sat in a filthy Cambodian prison badly beaten. His hands and feet were chained for five months. “Only my mouth was unchained,” he said.
“...So I sang to God in prison all the time. Another prisoner heard me singing through a small hole in the wall, so I taught him the song—a bit at a time. He passed it on and soon eight of us were singing.”
Archbishop Dominic Tang spent twenty-two years in prison in China for his faith. He reports:
“Besides my prayer and meditation, every day I sang some hymns in a soft voice: ‘Jesus I live for you; Jesus I die for you; Jesus I belong to you. Whether alive or dead I am for Jesus!’ This hymn was taught to me by a Protestant prisoner who lived in my cell.”
RESPONSE: Today I will respond to all the challenges of life I face with praise and thankfulness.
PRAYER: Pray that all Christian prisoners around the world will also respond to their circumstances as those documented above.
1. Helen Berhane, Song of the Nightingale, ( Colorado Springs: Authentic Media, 2009), pp. 36-37.
2. Tony Lambert, The Resurrection of the Chinese Church (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1991), p 179.