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‘What are you thankful for?’ – Revd. Bob Wilson

Thank you. Diolch. Tapadh leat. Ta. Cheers.

We say thank you in this country in so many ways. Though we may say it in a different language, the desire to express our thanks seems universal. Usually, we are responding to an act of kindness or generosity, an offer of help or to service given. We also instil this sense of gratitude in our offspring, encouraging them to remember their ‘Ps and Qs’. A big purple dinosaur (going by the name of ‘Barney’!) once sang “please and thank you, they are the magic words” to help further remind children of the importance of gratitude and courtesy.

This year, Prisons Week is focussing on a Samaritan man, an outsider, who was healed by Jesus and responded with gratitude. We read in Luke 17 that he ‘threw himself on the ground … and thanked Jesus.’ (v16). The story tells us nothing of the man’s journey up until that time, nor do we know much about it afterwards. But we do know that his encounter with Jesus as healer led him to a state of gratitude and of worship.

Interestingly, the man does not seem to have been healed on his encounter with Jesus, but on his reaction to Him in obedience – ‘as they went they were healed.’ (v14) It is when he had believed in Jesus’ words and acted in faith, he received his healing. Perhaps this is a reminder to us that sometimes we need to act in faith before we see God’s provision.

Despite ten people being healed by Jesus, it is only this one man, ‘a foreigner’, who returns with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving (v17). It is this attitude of gratitude expressed by the Samaritan man that we are focussing this year’s Prisons Week on.

Over the last few years in Prisons Week we have journeyed together in prayer through difficult days. We have lamented together, but with the encouragement that ‘you are not alone’; we have struggled together with little but looked to the ravens as a sign of God’s provision; and this year, while still journeying, we return to say thank you. Not because we are thankful that all is again well, but because it is life-affirming for us to be thankful in all things.

In creating this year’s video, the Prisons Week film crew went out onto the streets of Brighton and captured peoples thankfulness in all things from a wide range of people in a wide range of circumstances – thankfulness for family, for pets, for last chances to talk, for sustenance, for nature, for the wind in my hair, for breath.

In the midst of daily life, to pause … maybe in our pain, maybe in our joy, maybe in our healing, maybe in our ongoing dis-ease, to cry out along with all affected by imprisonment … ‘Thank you’ … changes us at a soul level.

It is never an easy response, but in it we are led to worship, we are led to praise, we are led onwards in to live in all its fullness. As Psalm 100:4 puts it: ‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.’

Jesus says to the Samaritan: ‘Get up and go; your faith has made you well.’ Not so much ‘magic words’ as wonderful words, words of healing and words of life. Words that I will be praying during Prisons Week that victims, prisoners, officers, chaplains, children, magistrates, those like me, and those who are not, will all find the strength to say – and be made well.

Thank you. 

Revd Bob Wilson is the Free Churches Faith Advisor to HMPPS and the Chair of Prisons Week.

Download the October Prayer Diary, with a prompt each day for how we can pray for our prisons and our ministries.

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