Near-Death Experience Sparked Pastor to Unleash the Power of Praise

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"At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's shackles were loosened" (Acts 16:25-26).

In 2003, I began to feel ill and experience sharp pain I had never known before. I had no appetite and struggled for several months, losing weight and enduring bouts of excruciating abdominal pain.

After many doctor visits, I was admitted to the hospital. My heart rate had plummeted to 41 beats per minute, and my blood pressure was hovering dangerously low at 76/40. I spent 11 days in the hospital with nothing to eat or drink and was scheduled for an extensive MRI. I lay on my side in a fetal position, completely alone, and watched the screen as the barium reached my stomach and stopped. The 45-minute test took seven hours.

As I lay on the cold metal table, hour after hour, I felt like a wrung-out rag doll. I heard the Lord say to me, "Angela, I know you can worship Me on the platform. I want to know if you can worship me here." The hospital room became holy ground. I sang quietly with tears flowing down my face, "Here I am to worship/ Here I am to bow down /Here I am to say that You're my God." That moment of surrender ushered in my miracle.

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A team of specialists made the diagnosis of superior mesenteric artery (SMA) syndrome.

SMA Syndrome is a rare, life-threatening disorder where the superior mesenteric artery takes too sharp a right turn. The first portion of my intestines was compressing the artery and acting as an obstruction. Doctors performed serious, complicated surgery to bypass the affected portion of my intestines and relieve pressure on the artery.

Then they reconnected my stomach to a lower section of the intestines. Recovery included long months unable to eat solid food, healing from trauma and adjusting to a scar that runs the length of my torso. God taught me through that dark season to trust His character and worship Him no matter what. Through health challenges and times of adversity, I learned to release the power of praise.

In Acts 16, while Paul and Silas were in the city of Philippi, they were delivered from prison through the power of praise. On their way to find a place to pray, Paul freed a slave girl from a demon which had allowed her to make prophecies about the future. This angered those who profited from her ability which was lost once the demon was gone.

The people's response was prison. They brought charges that Paul and Silas were breaking Roman laws on religion. Paul and Silas are seized, dragged, stripped, severely flogged and thrown into the inner cell of a prison. Hands and feet in stocks, backs bleeding, they had every reason to be angry and ask God to get them out of this unfair situation. But they did none of that.

Paul and Silas' response was praise. At midnight, during their darkest moment, they are up "praying and singing hymns to God" (Acts 16:25b). In the middle of unimaginable pain, they expressed gratitude. Remember that Paul and Silas were looking for a place of prayer, and they found it right here, even in a prison. Their praise became a weapon.

When our response is praise, God's response is power. God sent such a violent earthquake that the prison doors flew open. This is the power of praise: Chains break and doors open. The jailer reached for his sword to kill himself, fearing the prisoners would all escape. Paul and Silas yelled for him to stop and didn't leave even when they had the chance. Why? Because they were others-minded and kingdom-minded.

The jailer's response was petition. A prison became a place of freedom. Incredulous, the jailer asked, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30b). Paul and Silas' witness and integrity preached a silent sermon that led to the salvation of the jailer and his entire family. In the morning, Paul and Silas were released.

Praise isn't chained by a prison. Or a hospital room. Or a fractured relationship. Or a financial crisis. We can encounter the presence of God anytime we choose to respond to trials with praise. Praise invites God's blessing and releases God's power. When we praise, God acts. God turns our midnight moments into miracles.

Angela Donadio is a Bible study author, international speaker, recording artist and advocate for rural women in Africa. A survivor of two near-death experiences, she is passionate about encouraging others to "Make Life Matter." As a women's pastor and ordained minister, she serves alongside her husband, Dale, lead pastor of a thriving church. She's an adventure junkie, mom to two young adults and resources women with relevant biblical content through her weekly podcast and blogs at angeladonadio.com.

Excerpted from Angela Donadio's book Astounded: Encountering God in Everyday Moments (Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2020)

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