"About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earth­quake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open.” (Acts 16:25-26)

Paul and Silas had no idea what God was up to. They were pretty sure God didn’t want them to languish in prison for the rest of their lives, but they didn’t know whether to pray for a miraculous release, dismissal of the charges against them, or a legal vic­tory. But they did know some things. They knew Jesus was alive and with them. They knew God was in charge and could use every circumstance to bring glory to his name. So they began to praise him aloud, singing songs of joy and victory.

God acted dramatically. He sent an earthquake that opened the prison doors and broke the pris­oners’ chains. Then he gave the apostles the right words to say to the terrified jailer. He also worked in the prisoners’ hearts, for none of them tried to escape. And finally, he worked in the heart of the jailer himself, bringing him and his entire household to conversion!

In difficult circumstances, we too may be perplexed about how to pray. We don’t always know which out­come would be best for us and for everyone involved. So how should we begin?

A good first step would be to recall the power and goodness of our heavenly Father. Let these memo­ries move you to praise him and to proclaim your trust in his love. Recall that he is Lord of the whole universe. Affirm that he is at work in this world he created. Believe that he loves you and has called you to advance his kingdom. Then, armed with these marvelous truths, offer him your praise and worship. As you recall his truths, you will also know his love. And that love will soften your heart and open you to his direction.

As you pray this way, you may get a sense of the direction you should go, or you may just have a deeper sense of trust in him. Whatever hap­pens, you’ll experience the chains of fear and confusion falling from you, and you’ll know the freedom of being a beloved child of God.

“Lord, I praise you with my whole heart. I trust that you are with me at all times and in all circumstances.”

Psalm 138:1-3,7-8; John 16:5-11