The prayers that I hear behind the walls are often not the prayers that people on the outside would expect to hear. People on the outside assume that most of the prayers would be, “Lord, let the court find me innocent and drop all charges.” Sometimes, actually rarely, that prayer is prayed, but not as often as you would expect. I’ve learned to pay attention, with open eyes and open ears, to the men that are praying.
I noticed three things from the prayers last Tuesday night.
A Lack of Entitlement
Prayers of the church behind the walls comes from a place of humility. A phrase which is have heard frequently behind bars is, “we thank You for this day which we were not promised.” Would I be thanking God for the day if I were incarcerated, or would my prayer begin with a lament for not receiving the things I felt I had coming?
A Sense of Identity
One of the men prayed, “Lord, we thank you that we are the jewels in Your crown.”
What makes that statement so striking is that these men throughout life have been told how worthless they are.
- “You’ll never amount to anything.”
- “No one could ever love you.”
- “I wish you’d never been born.”
They have been given a new identity: Jewels in the Savior’s crown.
Praying For Things We Dare Not Pray
Churches on the outside are afraid to ask for the things I have heard these men pray for — prayers that I’ve only heard of from missionaries in places where the church is persecuted.
In order to understand the depth of this prayer you need to understand that all of these men are survivors of trauma. They have walked through suffering in deep and profound ways. It would be difficult for most of us to understand the physical, mental, and spiritual suffering these men have already experienced.
With that in mind, consider the power of the prayer, “Lord, let us suffer for You.”
When was the last time you heard the church outside the walls invite suffering in the name of the Lord? Yet this is a recurring prayer behind the walls.
“Suffering is nothing by itself.
But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.”
– Mother Teresa