Monday, July 16, 2012

Praying from the Dungeon

The apostle Paul spent much of his later years in prison. We know this from the many letters he wrote to the various churches from prison. One of those is found in Colossians 4 and really struck me when I read it.  We know Paul was not only in prison but also in chains from verse 18

I, Paul, add this final greeting, writing with my own hand. Remember I am still in prison and in chains. May grace  be with you! Amen (so be it). Colossians 4:18 Amplified
Now I don't know about you, but if I found myself in prison I'd be pretty frightened. Even in our modern prisons complete with TVs and computers and libraries and weight rooms (courtesy of our government), I'd be pretty frightened (Mainly of the other prisoners). But back then, the prisons were not so nice. They were normally dungeons with dirt floors and bugs, no beds, blankets, or air conditioning. They were overcrowded, and usually dark and gloomy. The prisoners were fettered at the legs and sometimes the neck. The chains were heavy and made of iron that would rust with the perspiration of the prisoners, causing them great pain. There was no personal hygiene. And food and drink was limited and of such poor quality that prisoners were malnourished and grew sick.  It was expected that many of the prisoners would either die of illness or commit suicide.   It was in this environment that Paul often found himself.
Let's face it, if you were thrown into a place like that tomorrow, what would be your first prayer to God? What petition would you cry out to Him over and over? "Please get me out of here!"  I know I would!  I'd be down on my knees so fast, the dust would scatter.  "Lord, free me! Help me!" And what if they allowed you to send letters to your friends and family, wouldn't you ask them to pray for the same thing?  Of course! You'd get every prayer chain in the country buzzing with prayers for your release.  Do you want to know what Paul prayed for? We find it earlier in the same chapter of Colossians

And at the same time pray for us also, that God may open a door to us for the Word (the Gospel), to proclaim the mystery concerning Christ on account of which I am in prison; Colossians 4:3 Amplified

Paul prayed for the chance to witness to people in prison. Oh my. Now I feel like total scum!  But honestly, when I read that, I couldn't believe it. The dedication, the single-mindedness,  the love this man had for the Lord! Nothing else mattered, but obeying God and winning souls, not even Paul's personal comfort. That's the measure of a true disciple, isn't it? 

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me Matt 16:24
Yet how often are we consumed more with our own lives, our personal comfort and problem-free living than with attending to God's business above all else? How often do we start to complain and whine when things go wrong.  And how wonderful if (hypothetically) we were tossed in a dungeon in Afghanistan, our first prayer would be "Use me, Lord, to bring others to you."

You may never be thrown in a physical prison, but we all get tossed in life's prisons now and then. Job loss, money problems, health issues, children problems, death, abandonment, rejection, heartache..  life can certainly pile up on us sometimes, can't it? So much so, it feels like we are in a dank, dark, dungeon. And inevitably when that happens, we cry out to God to rescue us. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. God doesn't fault us for prayers like that. But what if the next time the world is crashing down around us, we look up instead and say "Use these circumstances, Lord, use these problems, to bring others to You."
I imagine that would put a huge smile on our Father's face.


  1. I have a Christian acquaintance that is currently in prison for a crime they didn't commit and their sentencing is today. How ironic that you should post this encouraging post just now. :) Thankyou.

  2. Mon July 16th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Excellent post ... yet another 'timely Word in due season' !
    Yes, being human ... I am quite sure my 'immediate prayer' would be ... "Lord, please help me to get out of here" !!! As NO ONE likes -- catastrophe, trials, pain, discomfort, or 'inconveniences' ... of being placed into a rotten circumstance/situation along life's journey.
    During those great trials/struggles/dilemnas ... I am "trying" (trying) more and more, to ask the Lord ... "what" He wants to do through the given situation; and, to "help me to be a blessing to others". NOT always easy, that's for sure !!!
    Thanks for the "unselfish reminders", MaryLu. I definitely need to be more sensitive re - bringing others to Him !!!
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  3. Bush Maid, wow. Yes what a coincidence. I'm so sorry about your friend. I'm lifting up a prayer now for justice to be served.

    Brenda, I think all of our first reactions are "Help!!" LOL. Maybe that was Paul's first one too. We don't know.. but it's the last reaction that matters, right? It's so hard to realize we are in a battle and life isn't about us. I need to constantly remind myself of that. :-)

  4. Thank you, MaryLu. I have a friend who is going on trial in August. He was accused of committing a crime he did not commit, and he doesn't have the hope of Christ to carry him through this. I have been unsure how to be supportive to him, as I have been unable to reach him. But I know I need to keep trying just so I can show him the love of Christ.

  5. Good word again, MaryLu. You're so right. "Help!" is the first thing that would probably come out of my mouth too. Interesting thoughts.

    Bush Maid and Sasafras - I'll be praying for your friends too. For justice, definately, but also that Bush Maid's friend will BE a light in the darkness, and that Sasafras' friend will SEE the light in the darkness! :) How great it is to be used by God! May strength and peace be given to both, and to those who love them.

  6. This kind of puts a dent in the prosperity gospel too!

    I will be praying for your friends, Sasafras and Bush Maid! My brother is in prison, but he did what he got sent there for!

  7. Sasafras, I'm so sorry. Amazing that there are two of you commenting on this blog who both have friends accused of crimes they didn't commit. I will pray for both of them. And for you to reach your friend.

    Yes, Caroline. "Help!" I'm not even facing serious trouble and I still cry that out at least twice a day!

    Emma.. you're absolutely right! No prosperity gospel here!

    Hugs to all!!

  8. Thankyou so much everyone, for your prayers and encouragement! You have greatly blessed me, and I know that your prayers have availed much. :)