My husband recently started serving in the prison ministry with Fellowship Church. I am so excited that we are part of a church that is doing church inside the prison. This week Richard was sharing with me some of the prayer request so that we can be praying for the men at the prison. I have to admit that I was surprised by the request that were received. I expected more selfish prayers. Prayers for comfort while there or for an early release. I thought they would pray for freedom; that was not it at all. These men were praying selfless prayers for the people they left behind or their families that they let down. They wanted their wife to have support and for their kids to have a good school year. They also asked God to make them the men that they need to be for their family.
I have to say that I was convicted in my own feelings of judgment on them as well as my own selfish prayers. How often do I think of myself and my own comfort and my own needs? We can be in a “prison” of our own making or of our own choices. Maybe we are struggling in our finances or a relationship and we cannot see beyond what is not going right. It is true, God could fix all of that, but what He ask for is our praise through it. He asks us to focus on Him and not the storm around us. I recently heard Bishop TD Jakes say that God does not give us a job to feed us, He can do that without the job. He gives us a job for His purpose, so that we can glorify Him. If I believe that is true, which I do because I have seen it in my own life, then why am I asking for the same things again and again. My prayer should be, “How can I serve Him?” It should be prayers for my family, friends, and for those men in the prison that are worried about their families.
The very people that I was judging and making assumptions about, taught me a big lesson about prayer and about life; it’s not about me. It is about God. We have hope because we have a God that loves us. God can redeem and restore our lives whether the prison we are in is a physical one, one that the world has created for us through circumstance, or one we have built around ourselves. We can put “walls” around us for self-preservation, to keep bad things out, and we have inadvertently blocked the good from entering as well. We need to learn from Paul and Silas; when they were in prison they began to sing praise to our Father. As the two of them sang the walls came down and yours can too. When we get outside of ourselves and look for ways to serve others, God can meet our needs and love on us in ways we could never imagine. True freedom is not about location, it is about a relationship with Jesus.