Back To All PF Updates

National Prayer Meeting Transcript – 2nd April

It was a joy to gather together online today for a national prayer meeting with well over 200 volunteers! We were also joined by PF staff, Trustees, and prison chaplains. Thank you to all who joined us for the special time to bring the needs of our prisons to God in prayer. 

Here you can find the transcript of the call. Feel free to share it with those who were unable to join the call!

 

Introduction – Peter Holloway, CEO

A very warm welcome to our first online National Prayer for Prisons! It’s wonderful to have so many people join us. It’s lovely to be able to see so many of you. I hope that just being here together, gathered in Christ’s name is an encouragement to you all.

A number of people asked if I would give a quick PF update before we pray, so we can think about these things as we pray.  Let’s start with our prisons:

  • As I’m sure many will be aware, two weeks ago, social and non-essential prison visits were stopped. This is extremely tough for both those in prison and their families.
  • Many prisons currently have high sickness levels among Prison Staff and this combined with health restrictions, means that many prisoners are confined to their cells for most of the day.
  • With the country set for a lock-down for an extended period and the confined nature of prisons creating close proximity, we can expect our prisons not to be open to volunteers for quite some time. And rightly so.
  • However, whilst many volunteers are not in prison at the moment, those with faith accreditation are considered Volunteer Chaplains and not Chaplaincy Volunteers. Therefore, whilst Chaplaincy Volunteers are asked not to go into prison, Volunteer Chaplains can continue by agreement with the prison’s Managing Chaplain. If you have further questions about this, please contact your GL or Stephen Hawkins.

What else are we doing?

  • Firstly, your staff support team are still working away. Almost entirely from home. We have email and phones. We can video conference. Rachel has the PF Office phone in her home and answers that from 10:00 – 15:30. We are still able to collect and send post, but please do whatever you can to use electronic communications as post is limited and we don’t know how long it will continue for.
  • Letter Link continues to provide an incredibly valuable support to people in prison at this time. In the 70 prisons were we already run LL, we have encouraged more people to take up writing and we have encouraged other prisons to start.  At the end of this month we will have produced new materials and will have a communication campaign with the objective of supporting even more people in prison.
  • Supporting Chaplains is especially important at this time. We love chaplains and are always inspired by their service.  However, it’s even more important at this time that we do whatever we can to care for them, like praying and giving words of encouragement.  Even the smallest kindness can be important.

 

Introduction to our Prayer Time

As we turn towards prayer together, I would like to start by reading you a couple of sentences from our Founder, Sylvia Mary’s book, ‘God is Building a House’. At key times for PF I often come back to these words. Sylvia Mary writes this in talking about the vision God had given her about the PF that was to come.  She says this:

“From the beginning, God had shown us that the house that He was building was very big, and therefore the foundations had to be deep, and they had to be based on prayer”

As I’ve thought about these words, I believe that God would also say to us that going deep in foundations of prayer is not only important because His house is big… but the foundations in prayer also have to go deep because of the storms that will beset the house.  PF has known many storms in the past – and we have seen God’s faithfulness through it all.

This storm is one that others are also battling.  So, what must we do?   We must dig deeper and pray and make those foundations even deeper. PF has always been a praying fellowship. However, if this storm causes us to go even deeper again in prayer, then we will inevitably emerge even stronger – closer to God – and more aligned to His will for PF.

Hope

This is tough time for many, many people. We know that hope can be in especially short supply in prison. And at this time, there will be many in prison who are really struggling to hold onto hope.

Psalm 126 has just 6 verses.  It could be titled “This is the hope that we carry”

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.  Then it was said among the nations,  “The Lord has done great things for them.”  The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.  Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

This is the hope that we carry – Hope of restoration and of new life to come.

But we don’t carry this hope just for ourselves – at this time we must especially carry this hope for all those in prison.  Their hope may be severely tested at this time and so, in the same way that we usually walk alongside those in prison with love and hope.  Now we hold that hope in our praying hands lifted to almighty God.

What could be more important, than to gather together in this way to lift those in prison to our Heavenly Father?

Praying for Men and Women in Prison – Pat Bragg, PF volunteer Area Leader

Merciful and compassionate God , Father Son and Holy Spirit;

Jesus taught us to pray for those in prison. We hold before you every man, woman and young  person in our prisons and our young offender institutions. Help them to know your love and presence with them and calm their anxieties , soothe their distress and feelings of isolation.

Merciful and compassionate God , hear our prayer

We pray for compassion on the wings , for courage for prisoners and staff and  your spirit of grace, wisdom, patience and understanding in this extremely difficult  situation.

Merciful and compassionate God , hear our prayer

We especially remember those who are ill, those who are struggling with mental health problems and addictions. We remember those who have been bereaved recently or who have heard about serious illnesses amongst their loved ones. We hold before you those prisoners and family members who are ill or who have died as a result of the coronavirus, let us remember that we cannot be separated from your love and that you have conquered death.

Merciful and compassionate God , hear our prayer

At this time of great uncertainty for everyone when visits have had  to be suspended , we pray for a strengthening of phone and letter contact between the prisoners and their families.

Merciful and compassionate God , hear our prayer

We hold before you those who are due to be released soon . We pray that you will provide safe places for them to be released to with good accommodation and support . We pray for your peace for those who are feeling anxious and frustrated as this is a very difficult time for them to make the transition from prison to the community.

Merciful and compassionate God , hear our prayer

Loving God , we thank you for hearing these prayers. Accept them in the name of Jesus, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Praying for Prison Staff and Chaplains – David Cooke, PF Trustee and Volunteer

We lift up Prison Staff across the prison estate (think of those in your local prison):

  • Many already off work, self-isolating to avoid passing on the virus to those in prison
  • Already doing a difficult job with limited resources they are now stretched thinner, working a restricted regime which puts additional pressure on them
  • Personally frightened for their own safety and for their family’s safety, suffering from anxiety, lack of sleep, exhaustion and depression

Lord we lift these men and women to you and we pray:

  • For those already affected and suffering, those in hospital – for healing and peace for them and their families;
  • For their physical health and well-being as they come to work in a dangerous environment;
  • For strength and stamina when staff numbers are low, for time to recharge their batteries and get good sleep;
  • For mental peace as they are concerned for their own health and the health of their families, and freedom from anxiety;
  • For wisdom, patience and compassion in dealing with the prisoners who are anxious and concerned, and the ability to put their own worries to one side and give them reassurance;
  • For their safety from violence when dealing with prisoners who have mental health issues that are heightened at this time; make them alert to the dangers;
  • That those who know you will be strong witnesses and lights in this time and that many others would see that and turn to you in their time of need.

We lift up Chaplains and the Chaplaincy team (think of those you know):

  • Again, some already off work, and all working with reduced teams as their staff and volunteers are unable to come into prisons to support them
  • Facing an increased workload as they make time for staff who are looking to them for support and find ways to help the men and women in their care

Lord we ask you:

  • For their personal health at this time – those with health conditions, and those suffering from the virus – you are our healer – and for stamina as they continue to care for prisoners with reduced staff and volunteer numbers; good sleep
  • That they would know freedom from worry – that they remember to “cast all their cares on you, because you care for them.”
  • For great wisdom in the way they handle themselves with other staff, that they would see you in the way the Chaplains are living out their lives at this time – for wisdom in supporting the staff in their own needs;
  • For creativity in the ways they are able to support the men and women in their care – continuing to provide them with spiritual sustenance through notes and conversations through the doors;
  • Dealing with prisoners who have family members who are sick and those that are bereaved.

We lift up Governors and those in Leadership over the Prison Service:

Governors are being put into situations they have never faced before, and Government ministers and civil servants face difficult decisions. Lord we ask you:

  • For their personal safety at this time
  • For those already afflicted by this disease that you would bring healing to them
  • To give great wisdom to Governors and management as they make difficult decisions about how to manage their prisons and the prisoners and officers in their care

Lord, you have established government and put people in position of authority so we lift up to you those with overall responsibility for the prison service. We ask that you would sustain them and give them insight and wisdom:

    • For Robert Buckland, the Secretary of State for Justice
    • For Lucy Frazer, the Minister of State for Prisons and Probation, who has been in self-isolation
    • For Jo Farrar, The CEO of the Prison Service

Give them your peace and courage in making decisions for the good of the prisoners and the staff in the prison service.

Lord, we pray for your peace and healing over all those involved in running our prisons at this time in the name of Jesus, our saviour and healer. Amen

Prayer for families of those in prison – Andy Prescott (PF)

Lord Jesus, we remember the families of those currently living in our prisons.

It’s now two weeks since prison visits were halted because of the coronavirus pandemic. We pray for all those who’ve not been able to visit their loved one in prison. Ask God to comfort them at this distressing time.

We pray that families would find other ways of staying in touch with their relative inside, that somehow there would be more phone calls, and that letters to and fro would become commonplace.

Lord God, please provide comfort for relatives of prisoners who are anxious about the wellbeing of their loved one inside. We ask for protection on all prisoners during this difficult period, and that You will calm the anxiety of concerned relatives.

Having a family member in prison often brings with it financial hardship. And the current crisis has led to further difficulties in our economy. We pray for those families without a regular wage earner, who are maybe struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table. Lord Jesus, will you raise up communities at this time to help all of those in need.

We particularly remember families with children. With children already unexpectedly off school and likely to be for some time, Lord Jesus we ask that you will provide the necessary support for each family unit and some structure to families where it is most needed.

And finally, we pray for recently-released prisoners who might be struggling this day to find the support they need. Lord God, be with them in their search for somewhere to live and for suitable opportunities to work. Amen.

Prayer for PF’s volunteers and ministry – Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen (PF)

Loving God, we praise you for your faithfulness to Prison Fellowship over 41 years. We thank you for the seed of a vision that you nurtured in the hearts of Sylvia Mary and others, and for the way you have guided and held us as a fellowship over the years. We know that there is no crisis that is a surprise to you, no trial that cannot be overcome by you.

Thank you God for the thousands of volunteers that have faithfully shown your love to men and women in prison. Thank you for their dedication, for the way they see prisoners through your eyes, love them with your heart.

  • We pray for our volunteers who are sick at this time – loving God, would you bring healing.
  • For our volunteers who are mourning the loss of a loved one – would you bring comfort.
  • For our volunteers who are struggling with isolation and loneliness – would you bring connection and a tangible sense of your presence.
  • For our volunteers who are experiencing increased anxiety and panic, would you bring your peace which passes all understanding.

We mourn the loss of being unable to go into prison and run our programmes and be present to the men and women inside, but we believe and trust that you, God, still walk the landings and halls, that you are present in every room in prison.

Thank you that we were able to run Angel Tree Mothers’ Day before the restrictions came into place this year, and we pray that those gifts and cards sent would bring delight and comfort at this time, especially as visits have been cancelled.

We pray for every Sycamore Tree learner whose course was cancelled or postponed, that your Holy Spirit might even now be moving in their hearts , to reflect and consider their past in a new way – may they know that there is always hope for a brighter future.

We thank and praise you for our dedicated letter writers, for the care and love they take writing every letter that goes into prison. We pray that you would open doors to allow this programme to expand at this time, for more prisons willing to advertise the programme, for more men and women inside to get the opportunity to write.

Lord, would You use this time to strengthen us as an organisation and as individuals, so that we are even more equipped to show your love in our prisons. We consider it a privilege and a gift to be able to do this work, to love those who are so close to your heart. Open our ears to hear what you are saying to us. Give is renewed vision and energy for the work ahead. And sustain us in body, mind and spirit through this challenging season. Amen.

 

Close – Peter Holloway

The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something and enter God’s realm where everything is possible. He specializes in the impossible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love. – Corrie Ten Boom

Our God, at this time of crises in the world, and in our prisons, we can call you Father. At this time when everything around seems to have failed, we know that you are faithful. And at this time when we are reminded of our weakness, we know that you are truly Almighty.

We ask for your blessing upon prisoners, their families, prison staff and chaplains and all those who volunteer and give their time in the criminal justice systems.

Lord, may this difficult time drive us to our knees and dig foundations in prayer that are so certain that our calling to serve those in prison will be immovable.

Amen.

“I can honestly say that I never had as much satisfaction when I worked as I do now as a volunteer.” — Arthur, Chaplaincy Support volunteer

Volunteer with PF

Volunteers are the life-blood of our organisation, and what they do in the lives of those in prison and as they pray, is incredibly valuable. If you are looking to use your time to support some of the most marginalised people in our society to transform their lives, then volunteering could be for you.

Find out more