“There has been provision beyond what we had budgeted for.” The enormity of these words only superficially penetrated my thinking at the time.
As a volunteer with Prison Fellowship, I know all the clinical details. I know prayer is an integral part of the ministry. Weekly prayer with staff in the office; staff, volunteers and supporters praying monthly, connecting in a National Zoom setting; fortnightly prayer emails sent to dedicated prayer intercessors with points for intercession.
But what of the mystery of prayer… do I lose sight of that far too easily?
The past few weeks, in fact months, with all the unfamiliarity and uncertainty that came with Covid-19, I had to admit, I had been left with a sense of loss, a sense of disconnection, a sense of lost opportunity, and most of all a sense of deep sadness and powerlessness over what prisoners were now experiencing.
I thought of the connections that had so briefly been made in the two weeks of presenting Change on the Inside to a group of 10 men in a local prison… before everything changed. I smiled as thoughts of James* came to me. I had invited any questions the men may have had before I started presenting. As a 60-something-year-old, I had not anticipated the “How old are you?” question! We all cracked up and I responded “Well, how old do you think I am?” James was smart enough to reply “35?”
But I pondered, was he comparing me perhaps to his grandmother – had she come to mind, and was there a momentary sense of connection?
I thought of the earnestness and depth of the questions that had followed during the presentation. Of Dean’s* categorical statement ‘Don’t talk to me about God, I don’t believe there is a God!” The fabric of life happening even there, in that prison room; men looking forward to the time their lives may return to a semblance of ‘normal’. Men looking for a loving God – whether they perceived that or not. And now I am left wrestling with thoughts about how this change, this added Covid-19 sense of isolation, would be impacting these men.
The fabric of connection and hope, cut short?
“God has provided more than we had budgeted for” – the tangible evidence of a God who goes ahead and orchestrates all circumstances, hears all prayers, prepares to respond in ways no heart can fully know:
1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT ‘That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him’.
The Mystery that holds these men secure as we lift them up to Him… the possibilities we have not even thought of. Encounters with the risen Jesus that are beyond what we can even imagine. And I settle into the mystery and hope of the power of prayer to sustain a group of 10 men in an Australian prison.
And in that ‘knowing’, my anxious heart is still.
-Yvonne Smuts, Staff Writer