Not all great prayer meetings are promoted and scheduled. Incidents in daily living for Christ are often the cause of necessary gatherings of prayer.
There are several interesting leadings of the Holy Spirit in the life of Paul that eventually led to a glorious midnight prayer meeting that took place in a jailhouse at Philippi.
From the very beginning when the Holy Spirit said, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work where unto I have called them" , Satan began an all out battle against those who were separated from the "Antioch five". The speaking of the Holy Spirit to the group of five at Antioch, as they gave themselves to fasting and praying, launched the first of Paul's missionary journeys; therefore it is no wonder that Satan would lay many hindering stumbling blocks before them.
When the Holy Spirit speaks and gives direction to certain ministries, we need not expect clear sailing but should ready ourselves for Satan's attack. However, we must not be in dismay but know that divine protection and direction will be given. Many examples are given in the Word that assure us that God will make a way of guidance. An angel of the Lord guided Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch. Paul and Timothy were "forbidden" by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia. When they tried to go to Bethynia, the Spirit did not permit them to go.
Under such guidance of the Holy Spirit, sailing northwest from Troas, Paul and Barnabas anchored for a night off the island of Samothrace, then went on a hundred twenty miles to the mainland of Neapolis, then traveled a few miles inland to Philippi where the midnight prayer meeting would occur.
Apparently there was no synagogue in Philippi. Paul and Barnabas and those who accompanied them searched for praying people. Hungry in their hearts to pray and thirsty for fellowship, they heard of some Jewish people who gathered on the Sabbath outside of the city on the bank of the river. Their attending the prayer meeting led to the conversion of a business woman named Lydia, who opened her heart to Paul's preaching and she and her housewhole received Christ and were saved. This was indeed a victorious riverside prayer meeting.
On another day, Paul and his companions were walking toward the riverbank to participate in another prayer meeting and they met more opposition from Satan. We must learn that Satan is persistent and does not soon, on his own, step aside to give a clear road to the ministry of God called people.
They met a slave girl who was gifted by Satan in the art of fortune telling. This demon possessed slave girl followed them, crying out, "These men are the servants of the most high God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." What she said was true but Paul grieved by the sinful condition of this girl and not wishing to accept testimony from demons, called upon the powerful name of Jesus, commanding the demon to come out of her. Immediately she was set free and became a sane person.
The Masters of this girl became bitterly angry and brought Paul and Silas before the magistrates, which landed them in the Philippian jail where the glorious midnight prayer meeting took place.
E. M Bounds beautifully describes this incident: "In this incident we have a picture of Paul at midnight. He is in the inner prison, dark and deadly. He has been severely and painfully scourged, his clothing is covered with blood, while there are blood clots on his gnashed and torn body. His feet are in the stocks, every nerve is feverish and swollen, sensitive and painful. But we find him under these unfavorable and suffering conditions at his favorite pursuit. Paul is praying with Silas, his companion, in a joyous, triumphant strain. "And at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God, and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was an earthquake, so that the foundation of the prison was shaken; and every one's ban was loosed. And the keeper of prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors opened, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners has been fled, but Paul cried out with a loud voice saying, Do thyself no harm; for we are all here.
Never was prayer so beautiful, never more resultful. Paul was an adept at prayer, a lover of prayer, a wondrous devotee of prayer, who could pursue it with such joyous strains, under such conditions of despondency and despair. What a mighty weapon of defense was prayer to Paul! How songful! The angels doubtless stilled their highest and sweetest notes to listen to the music which bore those prayers to heaven. The earthquake trod along the path made by the mighty forces of Paul's praying. He did not go out when his chains were loosed, and the stocks fell off. His praying taught him that God had nobler purposes that night than his own individual freedom. His praying and the earthquake alarm were to bring salvation to that prison, freedom from the thralldom and prison house of sin which was prefigured to him by his body emancipation. God's providential openings are often to test our ability to stay rather than to go. It tested Paul's ability to stay."
May our Christian hearts be fortified with prayer that will indeed bring grace upon the called who minister and labor in the work of our Lord. Satan's opposition fails in the face of such midnight praying. May our prayer closets vibrate with prayers that are fervently lifted to God in behalf of men and women "who are separated for the work.