"We have a problem. Never have this many inmates come to church services before. So many have come in that we have exceeded the code limit of capacity for this room. There is only one guard and myself. Pray that all goes well," the prison chaplain shared with me and the 30+ church members prior to services. For several months our prison ministry has been coming for monthly services to the highest security level women's prison in our state.
This time we brought the sound equipment, our own sound engineer, 2 elaborate drumsets, 2 keyboards, the praise and worship team, dancers, the intercessors and me, the scribe, and two powerful preachers.
Revival is not a word I use lightly. I have prayed for decades to be present in God's true revivals. As a reader of old Chrisitan books, long years ago I naively prayed, "God, I know Chrisitans were in cities where Moody and Finney and Wesley preached that never knew anything great was going on. If You ever move in true revival will You let me know where You are mercifully moving in supernatural ways? I especially want to know if it is reasonable for me to attend." There will never be enough time to share the ongoing ways God has answered that prayer. He seems to take pleasure in "suddenly" surprising me anew with His answers to that request.
Last night was another experience of His mighty work suddenly in the hearts of men and women. Revival .... true revival as depicted in the Bible and throughout history is a sudden awareness of God's presence. It is a profound awareness of His majesty and the people are filled with the awe of God. No man or woman seems to be ultimately in charge of the meeting, rather the Holy Spirit literally seems to be presiding over the meeting and taking charge of it, and manifesting His power and guiding them, and leading them, and directing them. None of us can adequately describe revival, but we reflect its effect forever.
I don't know how long Thrive Christians Blog will dwell on what occured last night, but I know this is not a quick blog post on my trip to womens' prison. Something eternal occured within the two nights on the "inside."
Inside the locked walls and doors.
Inside my walls.
Inside the hearts of all of us in the presence of Holy God.
As we were packing up, the chaplain shared with us that "something" huge had occured in the two services this weekend. She could not elaborate, due to confidentiality policies, but we knew that many of her prayers had been answered.
She said many churches and ministries come to preach, but the inmates have talked to her about the "sound" that they hear when our church comes. Our church services are wonderful and the sounds are life-giving, but I agree with the inmates, I heard a sound Saturday and Sunday nights that was not church as usual.
That "sound" was like a mighty rushing wind. That sound of 250+ women singing Holy Holy Holy accapello for over ten minutes, opened up parts of my stoney heart to pour out prayers of mercy and love to strangers dressed in drab beige prison uniforms. I loved every woman with a compassion and a longing for their peace and joy that I simply cannot describe.
The "sound" had women dancing with smiles on their faces as they sang on their way to their cells. Free in Christ: oh yes, I will see that lively "ocean" of beige dressed beautiful women as my visual for that phrase forever. These same women had marched into the room with sad long faces and drooped postures.
The Bible shares a moment in John 4: 27-42 when Jesus compassionately and in full authority spoke to the Samaritan immoral woman at the well that reminds me of what I have experienced.
She must have had similar pains of regret with these women in prison. There was a "sound" in His voice that she realized that this was not just another day at the well.
And last night was not just another prison church service.
"And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did! So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world." John 4:39-42
I've heard the "sound" of Heaven here on earth and I will never be the same again.
Holy Holy Holy.