Praise – when nothing else works!

Paul and Silas praised God despite the difficult time they were in. Praise broke chains and opened prison doors (Acts 16: 23-33).

WHAT is the world heading to these days?
This and many similar sentiments can be heard more and more as we see the worsening situation of the pandemic in our nation and in the world. Bodies are piling up in hospitals and mass burials are now being talked about. What we saw happen in overseas countries is beginning to happen here in PNG.
Last year, many, even senior clergy, boasted proudly about how such a thing would never happen in PNG because we were a ‘Christian’ nation, God’s ‘chosen nation’, and so forth. Well, it’s finally reached us. Welcome to reality!
As people begin to see the magnitude of the problem, the mood changes somewhat. While there are still those who choose to deny the gravity of the situation, many others are beginning to understand how serious it is. And such knowledge drives us to respond in a couple of ways.
Firstly, we have the daily protocols that have to be strictly observed. No, they are not guarantees of safety but are nonetheless a first-line defence that everyone can apply: Wash hands with soap and water, sanitise, take care of personal hygiene, keep away from groups of people, wear a mask in public places and other basic things like that. Everyone can and should do these things.
Next, we have the vaccine drive. There is so much about the various types of vaccines in the country that we do not know about. We are told it will not protect a 100 per cent. Every vaccine is not fail proof. But the general public gets concerned when people they know who were doing well, died after getting the jab!
While many are fine after the jab, the cases of such deaths trouble the people. Folks are also asking about the stats saying while we are told how many unvaccinated people died; what about giving stats on how many ‘vaxed’ people died so we get a better picture.
Even our very learned doctors are divided on the treatment of the pandemic with their debates raging through social media.

Ignorant in awe
The ignorant public sit in awe as these learned men have it out in public. Of course everyone appreciates our beloved doctors; we just pray they get on the same side and try to find a great way forward for the good of all.
So what can we the ordinary people do? Apart from taking or refusing the jab, we still find that we are all prone to catch it in one way or another, and it could be fatal. On top of that, the weather and economic forecasts seem to be pointing to some pretty troubling times ahead.
And when push comes to shove, after it becomes law to be jabbed, people will lose their jobs, poverty levels will increase and law and order problems will flourish. That is a gloomy forecast but with the rate things are going, that could very well be the case.
Someone recently said we can do nothing else but just sit back and expect the worst. I choose to see it differently.
Firstly as a Christian, I believe we are not exempt from suffering. Our Lord did warn about how life will get so hard in the final moments of the ‘last days’ (Matthew 24:7ff). Definitely there will be hardships, trials and tribulations as never before. But I want us to take our attention away from these troubling events and see God, high and lifted up in His glory (Isaiah 6: 1ff). I believe when there is nothing much we can do, instead of wringing our hands in despair and getting ready to die – let’s just praise and worship the King of Kings, Yeshua Ha Messiah (Jesus the Messiah)!

What is praise?
Praise means “to commend, to applaud or magnify.” For the Christian, praise to God is an expression of worship, lifting-up and glorifying the Lord. It is an expression of humbling ourselves and directing our attention upon the Lord with heart-felt expressions of love, adoration and thanksgiving.
High praises bring our spirit into the highest moment of fellowship and intimacy between ourselves and God — it magnifies our awareness of our spiritual union with the Most High God. Praise transports us into the realm of the supernatural and into the power of God. The psalmist says, “You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Psalms 22: 3 CEV). This means as God’s people praise and worship God, we are ‘building a throne’ where He sits – right in the centre of our trials and tribulations – including this pandemic!

A couple of examples will suffice:
Praise scatters the enemy
Since praise manifests God’s presence, we also realise that praise repels the presence of the enemy, Satan. An atmosphere which is filled with sincere worship and praise to God by humble and broken hearts is repulsive to the Devil. He fears the power in the name of Jesus, and flees from the Lord’s habitation in praise. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God” (Psalms 50:23).
In 2 Chronicles 20, we read the story of the children of Judah who found themselves outnumbered by the hostile armies of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir.
King Jehoshophat and all the people sought the Lord for His help. The Lord assured the people that He would fight for them – not they themselves. He told them to go out against them, and He would do the fighting for them.
So what did the children of Judah do? Being the people of “praise” (Judah actually means praise), and knowing that God manifests His power through praise, they sent their army against their enemies, led by the choir to sing praise! They went ahead of the army declaring, “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endureth forever!” And the scripture says, “…when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten” (2 Chronicles 20:22). The enemy became confused and fought among themselves, killing each other (verse 23, 24). Israel won through the power of praise and worship!

Worship frees captives!
In the New Testament, we have another similar story. This account is about the unjust arrest of Paul and Silas. Because they had cast a spirit of divination out of a girl, the local Philippian authorities beat them and then threw them into jail (Acts 16: 23-33). Besides the trauma of the severe beating, they were fastened in stocks which clamped their arms and legs, causing cramps and loss of circulation. The atmosphere there was depressing.
According to the standards of that day, a prison was more like a dungeon, a dark, damp, stinky place. Yet, in spite of the pain in their bodies and the gloomy atmosphere, at midnight Paul and Silas were heard praying and singing praises to God!
Then suddenly, there was an earthquake that shook the prison! The doors flung open, and amazingly, the chains of Paul, Silas, and every other prisoner were broken! What caused this miracle to break chains and open prison doors? The power of praise and worship!

Our dire state
Our present situation is calamitous. We are faced with a large and dangerous enemy like Judah faced. Moreover, we feel we are trapped, our hands and feet are locked and we cannot move much. Every move brings pain and agony. We’re seeing death happen all around us and for many, it seems we are in the ‘midnight hour’. The midnight is the ‘darkest possible period’ of the 24-hour day. It is when the sun is the farthest away from our location on earth. According to Paul and Silas, that’s the best time to praise and worship the King!
This situation we are going through is unprecedented. It has never happened before, especially at this level and encompassing the whole world. Therefore, I believe the Church (all believers in Christ Jesus) must arise and set an ‘unprecedented’ level of prayer, praise and worship.
For instance, if corporate worship is banned, imagine thousands of homes erupting in prayer, praise and worship every Saturday and Sunday during worship times. Imagine that every street and neighbourhood will have the sound of God’s people praying and worshiping the King, and every non-believing neighbour will have a witness for Jesus Christ right in his face every week!
This is more effective than having Christians shining their lights together in one location, leaving the streets and neighbourhoods ‘dark’.
When believers stop fighting with God for their ‘rights’, and begin to see things positively, we can make the most of the situations we are in. Indeed, we will find that we are in an exciting time to be alive, a time to shine the light the brightest in these darkest of days.
Finally, as the battle rages, regardless of what happens, let’s surrender our lives totally to God and declare His majesty over our lives, our families and our nation. His might and power will be released to open prison doors of doubt and break the chains of fear that cripple us.
Through the power of praise and worship, may the insulation of the precious Blood of His Son, Yeshua, cover and hedge all of God’s precious people in these difficult days. Amen!

  • Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.