Friday, March 12, 2010

Revival at the Prison

I’ve wanted to get into the prisons for years. It’s just so thoroughly biblical:

“Then the King shall say to those on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” Matthew 25-34-36


Looking into it, the only way I could see to get into them was to go with an established group. I got several packets of information and spoke to several different prison ministry leaders, many of which required us to sign a waiver committing to NOT praying in tongues and focusing on other “questionable” practices like praying for the sick, etc.


Needless to say, going in with them would not be an option.


Several months ago, Linda Ruby, a wonderful gospel preaching Grandma and part of our team came to me expressing a strong desire to get into the jails. We prayed and agreed that must get in there on our own and not through some restrictive program that we couldn’t agree with. We asked God for favor and to open the door. As we would learn, the chaplain in a prison is like a pastor and the prisoners in the jail are his parishioners. To come in and minister at his prison, you had to get permission from the chaplain (pastor) to share his pulpit. So after exhaustively testing every possible venue, God opened one door, with one prison chaplain.


That’s all we would need.



GETTING IN


We scheduled the certification, got our nametags and put our first service on the schedule. Now, I’ve visited prisoners in county lockups, but had never been inside a legit prison facility. Barbed wire, guard towers and automatic weapons greeted us as we went in to check out another ministry doing services inside the prison. We wanted to see exactly what the prisoners and chaplain considered a “successful” service. We met some of the prisoners, listened to our new friend preach a fairly lackluster message and eagerly awaited our chance to preach to the men.


A couple weeks later, we went in. We were supposed to have an hour and a half, but things were running late that night, so we really only had about 45 minutes. 45 minutes to introduce ourselves, make an impression, preach the Gospel, lead people to Jesus and heal the sick. More than enough time.


I preached a very simple message of the Kingdom and its King, Jesus. The prisoners sat in rapt attention as I made a distinction between the “gospel” of salvation and the Gospel of the Kingdom and the difference between Jesus as Savior and Jesus as Lord and King of their lives. I told several stories of miracles that we had seen. I promised them that the Kingdom was here, it was now and it would work inside of their prison. I told them that geography is irrelevant to the Kingdom of God and that God was no respecter of persons, what he had done for others, he would do to them.


It was time for an altar call. I thought back to when we visited the other ministry’s service in the jail. At the end of the message, the preacher gave the standard, “Every head bowed, every eye closed.” It didn’t work too well, I’m not sure anyone came up and got saved. So I did something I like to do. I challenged the men saying, “Tonight, with every head held high and every eye wide open, I want to come down here and stand before God and tell everyone that you are making Jesus the King and Lord of your life. That you are repenting of doing life ‘your way’ and you are repenting of your sin and backslidden heart. Why? Because if you can’t come and do that, then you won’t make it anyway!”


They all but ran towards the altar. A rush of men ready to do some business with God crowded the altar. The sick came as well. We prayed a simple prayer together and committed ourselves to God lock, stock and barrel. The presence of God was overwhelming. Many swooned under the power of God and we our team began to pray for them to be filled with the Holy Ghost and healed. One of the men, a guy with permanent impairment to his vision was completely healed, as God dissolved the cloud in his eye as we prayed.


The testimony from one of the men that night was, "I have been in prison for 18 years and in this prison for 8 years and I have NEVER seen a response like the one we saw tonight. Never!"



THE RESULTS


The next morning, I wanted to call the chaplain and see if he was ok with what went on. Would the momentum started by our first service be carried on or quenched? I have seen many a move of the Holy Spirit crushed by insecure leaders, unsure of God’s power.


Here’s the message that greeted my inbox first thing that morning:


************************************


Pastor Lawson,


I thank God for your coming to the prison. We have been praying for a real Revival to take place within our prison population. I am convinced that your ministry along with some others are helping us reach our goal. I heard about the 25 men that gave their life to Christ last night. My prayers have been answered so continue to pray for our strength in the Lord and the great work here at the prison. This is the first time that we have had such a response during our time working here. I believe that Jesus is doing something special at this prison.


Thank you for being a willing vessel for the master.


God Bless You and Your Ministry.

Chaplain *Name Withheld*


************************************


That’ll do. Come on Jesus!


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