I wonder where you feel closest to God? Many people who regularly worship in a Church find the presence of God in that building – either the simplicity of a local church or chapel or the majesty of a great cathedral can inspire us to follow in the footsteps of those who have prayed there before us. Others prefer to get closer to the natural world – a stroll in the countryside or along the beach or even just an hour weeding the vegetable patch! You might appreciate the grandeur of the mountains, although from where I live in rural East Anglia you have to travel some distance to find any of those!
This year’s Prisons Week encourages us to ‘Look up’ and reminds us that, in the words of Psalm 19:1, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ We might well see that as an encouragement to admire the beauty of the heavens, perhaps particularly the night sky and the stars, as my family did on our holiday to France this summer, where the lack of light pollution enabled an incredible display of stars, planets, satellites and shooting stars.
If, on the other hand, you said that you felt closest to God in a prison, many people might think that you were quite odd. But, for those of us who work or volunteer in prisons, we know the reality of God’s hand at work in these places – the power of God to change lives and to turn the most hopeless of situations into one filled with hope and life and light. We can tell stories of God’s grace healing broken hearts and lives and encountering Jesus in the most unexpected of places and people.
Of course, we don’t need to strive to be close to God at all really, because He came to be close to us in Jesus. As we go into prisons and spend time with the people who live and work there, we take with us the good news that God is indeed close to us and also that love which He showed us in Jesus is open to everyone, no matter what their past may hold. His tremendous love in taking that great step towards us can inspire us to go in His strength into some of the most difficult places to tell others of His love for them
Prisons Week begins on Prisons Sunday 8th October. Please take time during that week to pray for all those involved in or affected by our criminal justice system. There are resources and details of events that are happening during the week on the Prisons Week website, www.prisonsweek.org
Thank you for your prayers, for your love and for your service of God and of His children in prison and across the criminal justice system. May God bless you richly.
The Ven. James Ridge is Chaplain General and Head of Faith Services at HMPPS.
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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