Fifty Days of Prayer | Day 28

Praying for Church Planting through the Book of Acts

Paul's journey into Macedonia (modern-day Greece) will introduce us to three distinct converts. He left Troas and came to Philippi. This was an important and influential city. Luke tells us that it was "a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony" (16:12). This would be one of the social, economic, religious, and political hubs in the region. The first convert they meet is a business woman named Lydia. She sold "purple" the color of royalty and power. The dyes needed to make this color were extremely rare and expensive - thus reserved only for the elite of elites. But "The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul" (16:14). A leading business leader and Greek woman was welcomed into the family of God.

The second convert they met was a slave girl. She had "a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling" (16:16). This was a girl trafficked by men and demons alike. Forced against her will she gave fortunes and lined pockets. But, when Paul enters the city she follows him and yells, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation" (16:17). After some time, Paul ends the demons harassment by commanding it in the name of Christ to leave. Freeing one enslaved girl would lead to their own capture and imprisonment. The gospel disrupted the social and economic fabric of Philippi as "the crowed joined [her owners] in attacking the, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods" (16:22). A young girl, enslaved to men and demons was delivered by Jesus.

Their final convert came as Paul and Silas were singing hymns in the Philippian prison at midnight. God sent a surgically precise earthquake that broke the foundation, loosed every door wide open, and removed every prisoners chains (16:26). The jailer assumed this meant his death. It was his job to ensure that every prisoner stayed in their cell. Now, he thought, they were all gone. But with a loud voice Paul cried, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here" (16:28). Three times in three verses we are told the jailer heard, believed, and welcomed Paul and Silas "with all his family" (16:32-34). A prison warden, along with his family, were saved from death and dishonor by the gospel.

Devout Jewish men used to wake in the morning and pray, "thank you God for not making me a woman, a slave, or a Gentile". Here, in one chapter we see the gospel come to a woman, a slave, and a Gentile. Every one of them comes to faith in Christ. God is creating a diverse church through Christ and the Spirit. So we pray for a diverse church filled with people who are welcomed, delivered, and saved.

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
— Acts 16:11-40