The Prisons Week Prayer
Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the actions of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and in his Spirit, now and everyday.
Jack Key, a Free Church Chaplain, shares this reflection for Prison’s Week.
When God first called me to prison chaplaincy, I was very reluctant; but almost six years later I already know that whatever my ministry transforms into later in life, my time in prisons will have been among the most powerful.
As the Free-Church Chaplain at two prisons my role entails pastoral and religious support. The overarching theme above both of those is rehabilitation for the prisoners to be renewed before release. I have seen no better transforming power to rehabilitate people than the power of Jesus pouring out love and hope into their hearts. The Church is not short of testimonies by ex-offenders transformed in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and it’s been a rollercoaster journey seeing the Spirit do this right in front of my eyes.
We recently ran our annual Alpha Course, and a prisoner told me at the end that he no longer needs his depression medication because of the love and peace he now knows from God. Hope is found.
I recently did a sermon series on forgiveness, and so many received prayer ministry and tears flowed as they heard and absorbed the freedom they can find in Jesus. Forgiveness is found.
A few months ago I had the privilege of baptising a prisoner who gave his testimony of how one night he had a dream where he was chained up, and Jesus appeared to him and broke his chains. Freedom is found.
What difference can I make to the prisoners as a prison chaplain? Minimal, but I can point to the God who can make a difference, and say triumphantly that He has done it before and will do it again.
Each chaplain will have their own focus they feel drawn to, and I’m particularly keen on exploring the most effective ways in which prison life can merge with the love of Jesus so that I can serve the prisoners based on their needs whilst pointing them to God. This year I ran a Christian anxiety and depression course for 5 weeks, and from that came a fresh expression Christian mindfulness group.
We do Christian-based mindfulness exercises each week which are tailored around mental health, rehabilitation, and faith development. None of them previously engaged in the Christian chaplaincy activities, now over half of them do outside of the mindfulness group. This is my way of addressing their needs, loving them, and bringing them closer to Christ.
As a Christian chaplain I am an ambassador for Christ in what is one of the spiritually darkest places in society. I have the privilege of being a supportive, non-judgemental presence to those who are self-harming or suicidal, those who are mourning loved ones outside of prison, those who have been extra naughty and have ended up in the segregation unit, those who are going through a particular existential crisis.
Prison chaplaincy is such a unique circumstance because many of the prisoners will very rarely have step foot in a church other than for a wedding or funeral, or interacted with a church leader. When they ask the prison for help, I may turn up at their door, something which would not generally happen in the public sphere.
As an ambassador to Christ, I have found that my presence alone sometimes sparks a question of faith. They may also never have heard the Gospel, and so as an ambassador my pastoral support points to the love of a God far greater than me, even if I barely mention God.
If you have a prison near you, be in touch with them and ask to explore volunteering in the chaplaincy team. Chaplaincy are always looking for help in various ways, and you’ll discover for yourself just how Jesus transforms their lives.
Find out more about Prisons Week here.