my dad wrote this for a newsletter in Melbourne, Australia (where he lives). He spends most of his life visiting with prisoners as an employee of Prison Fellowship. i found it encouraging and so i thought i would post it here. (dad is participating in a workshop at the Surrender Conference in Melbourne next month so if you are in that part of the world and want to hear more about mission in the context of prison you can hear more there. looks like a great gathering.)
Being Part of what the Lord is Doing.
I received a letter this last week from an older Christian prisoner who has been in prison a long time and who will probably die as a prisoner. In his letter there was one quote that has been going around in my head. It was, “It is not about God fitting into my life, it about me becoming part of what the Lord is doing.”
It reminded me of Jesus’ words where he said that if we were to be his followers and disciples, then we need to deny ourselves. As a young Christian there were times that I tried to use God to answer my prayers for my own selfish desires, even good desires. I was much more likely to pray for parking places rather than peace in places of war around the world. As I got older and had more experience of life, learning of the Good Lord’s grace in my life that I started to understand the bigger picture.
I started to comprehend that the world didn’t revolve around me but that Jesus Christ was King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator and sustainer of the universe. That my significance as a human being was bound up in my relationship with this wonderful, holy, redeeming and reconciling God. I started to grow in my understanding of the forgiveness that I have received, the peace that He gives and the hope that is implanted in my life.
One of the main principles that I practice while visiting in the prisons is to try to identify what the Lord is already doing in people’s lives. (Theologians call it “previenent grace”, grace “that goes before”) A person may not be a Christian, may not be informed or interested in spiritual things, but the Holy Spirit may already be at work in their life. I pray that I will be guided to identify and encourage the work of the Holy Spirit in each persons life, to find something good and encourage it, next time I see them ask them, about it and show genuine interest in their life journey. So our friendship will be based on what is good in their life and I trust that my encouragement will build hope and direction so that life for that prisoner will be different in the future as that which is good will become more dominant in their life.
As we visit the prisons and serve amongst ex prisoners and their families, may we be encouraged, may we plant seeds of hope, may we provoke questions from those who we get to know, about our faith, hope and love and may we find the evidence that the Holy Spirit is already at work in people’s lives and may we reflect accurately something of God’s grace and love as we care for people in Jesus’ name.