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Song and prayer from prison, at midnight
by Rev. Howard Ray Carey

The biblical account from which the title of this article is drawn is found in the 16th chapter of the book of The Acts of the Apostles. It comes down to us as the report of actual events in the early missionary work of Paul and Silas. This most dramatic sequence of events may actually have happened. But, more importantly, I see in this a significant parable (perhaps allegory is the better word) for that which has for long been happening to the human race.

The story briefly is this: Paul and his partner, while setting forth this revolutionary teaching about Christ and His universal love for all, Jew and Gentile alike, were being followed by a fortune-telling girl. It is reported that she had a spirit of 'divination'. She seems to have been mocking these disciples about being ''ministers of the most high God, setting forth the way of salvation.'' Annoyed, Paul turned on her and did a quick exorcism, in the name of Christ. The girl's owners were infuriated, because the money from her fortune-telling vanished immediately.

Like so many others, before and since, whose business practices seem threatened by the gospel of love and sharing, these owners brought totally false charges against Paul and Silas. Using anti-Semitic epithets against this Jewish team in this Gentile city, the accusers succeeded in stirring up a riot against them. The result was that the two missionaries were severely beaten and thrown into prison, with their feet in irons. But this was not the entire outcome of their act. For at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying aloud and singing praises to God. We wonder: did they get some relief from bleeding backs and aching bodies by lifting up their voices in prayer and praise ---- instead of voicing the curses which most would have expected? Certainly we would not envy them the opportunity of trying this kind of therapy ---- in prison at midnight.

At any rate, the results proved to be spectacular, to say the least. A most peculiar earthquake came, one which opened all the prison doors and removed the shackles from all the prisoners. A further result was the instant conversion of the jailer, who personally washed the bleeding backs of Paul and Silas and took them into his own home to feed them. Can we not see the allegorical meaning for humanity?

For ages humankind has been bound in the dark prison of glamour and illusion ---- all forms of selfishness and greed ---- imposed upon us by the high priests of politics, banking and commerce, and even of religion. They are the ones who point the finger and cry 'communist' (or in another part of the world, 'imperialist') at those who oppose them in their nefarious tactics. But their phony fortune-telling and fortune- gaining is now in the process of being exorcised ---- by the Christ and those who are returning with him to lead us in the new dawn of release from our long and dark imprisonment.

The jailers are the ones who supinely do the bidding of the greedy graspers of fortunes at the expense of the needy and starving millions. But the prayers of man, arising out of our long midnight from all parts of the world, have brought forth a mighty response. Yes, the first shuddering sounds of the planetary earthquake are beginning to be heard ---- the social, political, economic and spiritual earthquake which comes to shatter all our fetters and set us free.

What is our part in all this? No less, it seems, than dressing the wounds of the abused, feeding the hungry, and helping with the release of all those imprisoned by unjust systems ---- East and West, North and South. As Maitreya has said, through Benjamin Creme:

  • ''Those among you who wish to serve the world have placed before them now the opportunity of all lives. May you seize it, use it to the full and create for yourselves and your brothers a new life. The world awaits the sounding of the Cosmic Dates.  The nations prepare for a New Dispensation, and in trust and Brotherhood all men will share.'' (Messages No. 27 and 36)

Let us believe it. Let us rise to the level of consciousness where we know it to be true. And let us work for this with all our God-given strength and love-wisdom.

This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation.  Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated. 

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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005