World Day of Prayer Acts 16_16-34 Freedom from slavery
We hear from Luke in the book of Acts, a story of a slave girl. Many of us
may have read this story numerous times without even considering the plight of the girl; without even reflecting on her captivity and abuse as a salve girl at the hands of some greedy men. We glance over what seems a minor side issue that sets the scene for the bigger story of Paul and Silus in prison. Yet, when we spend a little time dwelling on the girl’s plight, we begin to see how her ‘owners’ or ‘abusers’ took advantage of her to better their own lives, stripping her of any dignity, taking away her childhood and exploiting her for the sake of a few easy dollars.
If we were to delve a little deeper into the story, we would realize that the owners of the slave girl were only instruments, stooges, playing their part in the devil’s plans, so in a way, they too, were enslaved without knowing it. They were taking advantage of her ‘already’ enslavement to an evil spirit; a spirit that had kept this young girl in bondage to sorcery, trickery and lies; she was enslaved to a slave driver, but worse still, she was in a greater and more dangerous slavery to an evil spirit. Even though she saw Paul, Silus and the other missionaries and knew they were from God, saying ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved’, she could not set herself free or do anything to break her chains of bondage to the evil spirit.
By this story, God draws us into the realisation of our own bondage and slavery…to sin. We begin to see, as we reflect on our secret thoughts, our words and actions, that we are like the girl and are born slaves to sin, as King David says in Psalm 51 ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.’ We, like the girl, and even the slavedrivers, play our part in the devil’s schemes and are powerless to free ourselves from our bondage to sin and death. We look around and we see evidence of this everywhere. All over the world there are still slaves and slavedrivers. In Asia there are sex slaves, as young as 10, held captive to satisfy perverted Australians caught in their own slavery.
In many developing countries there are children slaves working for only food and water to make cheap goods to sell in our country to satisfy our slavery to consumerism. We feel hopeless and unable to do anything about it.
It is precisely at this point, and for this very reason, that Jesus came into the world. It is precisely because we are helpless and totally enslaved and in bondage to sin, that Jesus comes to bring freedom to the captives, as he says ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.’
On the cross, Jesus paid the price of sin, died in our place to set us free from the bondage of sin, death and the devil that rendered us helpless. Jesus is raised from the dead to live forever, breaking the chains of death that once held us captive…forever. Freedom from our slavery and captivity to sin is the victory of the cross, and this key of freedom is given freely to all who trust in Jesus who says “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’
In this freedom we now live, we now live in Christ and have a great and joyous task. We have the authority and power of prayer; to call on the name of Jesus to bring freedom to those still in captivity to sin and to also bring freedom for those captive to physical slavery. Paul, in anguish of heart and spirit, knowing this girl could not change her situation, turns saying ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.’ She has freedom!
In our prayers to the Father through Jesus, we acknowledge that we cannot do anything, and that Jesus ‘is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.’ Prayer in Jesus name is given to us as our weapon of choice against all that keeps captive. Prayer, in Jesus name sets in motion freedom for those still in captivity. Pray tonight, pray tomorrow. Pray for those who are free, pray for those suffering and finally, pray always, as St Paul says ‘pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ Amen