But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. -Acts 16:25
George Morrison (1866-1928) was a Presbyterian pastor and preacher who was born in Scotland. The pastor of Wellington Church, Glasgow, for twenty-six years, his ministry primarily consisted of personal visits, postcards and letters for all those in his care who were sick or in sorrow or in trouble. He chose not to serve on committees, preferring to spend his time in what he considered the most important responsibilities to his church – mornings in study and afternoons in visiting his congregation. Many of his sermons and devotional thoughts have been put in print. In his volume entitled, Wind on the Heath, he has a sermon entitled, “Unconscious Ministries,” wherein he states that all of us exercise unconscious ministries. He references Paul and Silas, who sang at midnight while under adverse circumstances, not particularly paying attention that the prisoners were listening to them.
When I read that, it put a whole new light on the meaning of Acts 16:25. I often speak with pastors and missionaries who feel that their ministry is ineffective and their presence unfelt. They see so little fruit and become discouraged. I have felt that way myself many, many times. But we never know when someone might be listening, or watching, or critiquing how we respond to the trials and troubles of life. As Morrison goes on to state, “Be quite sure that the very humblest life is full of unconscious ministries. There is not a note of song we ever rise but the ear of some other prisoner will catch it.”
The power of the midnight song! As Paul and Silas sang – others listened! Oh, how that should drive us to our knees in repentance when we respond to the difficulties of life and ministry without a song in our hearts. Paul and Silas sang in prison – and the prisoners were listening! The only time in Scripture Jesus is ever recorded as having sung is the night He left the upper room and headed towards Calvary. I am sure that others were listening! I certainly would have! David often sang when his heart was troubled. If I recall, Christian, in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” sang while going through the Valley of the Shadow heading to the Celestial City. We never know when others might be listening to our conversations, our prayers, our sermons, or even our singing. A song on our lips often means all is well in the heart. Have not most of us in ministry, somewhere along the line, had expressed to us how we had been a blessing to someone without ever knowing it?
All of us, no doubt on a daily basis, exercise unconscious ministries. That is why it is so important to keep a song in our hearts, a smile on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes. This can happen, even during the “midnight” hours of life, when we saturate our souls with the Scriptures and scale heaven with our prayers of praise. Paul and Silas sang, and the prisoners listened! Today, as we go about business for God, people are listening. Something with God is always happening even though we may not think so. Our labors are not in vain. There are prisoners of some sort all around us. And they are listening.
–Maynard H. Belt