I had the great privilege to serve in the prison ministry for fourteen years. I spent seven years going into three different state prisons. The Lord had called me into this ministry supernaturally, and later He called me out supernaturally. Friends, God is not looking for talent, but only someone daring enough to do what He asks them to do.
One of the greatest lessons I learned while serving in prison was that you cannot put an infinite God in a finite box. As hard as you try, He will not be contained by man. Here is just one story, one of many lessons. It happened the last Sunday that I served in prison.
I was covering a Sunday service for the State Prison Chaplain, scheduled to preach in a high security prison. It never mattered to me what caused a man to get put in prison, but only that I could show him how he could be set free in his heart. I had prepared this last message, making sure I had everything all ready. We should always prepare, but never organize the Lord out of His plans.
I prayed just outside the prison that the Lord would help me to love the Chaplain’s clerk who would be at this service. This clerk would often treat me poorly, speaking down to me during services. We do not need to pray for the Lord to change someone else, but to change our own heart.
Friends, never think ministry is easy. Ministry is anything but easy. There is much flesh in the ministry that hinders the Holy Spirit. We must pray past the limits of man that we would be serving the kingdom of God.
I went into the prison unit and sat at the back in the Chaplain’s chair. The men were brought into the Chapel and the officers locked them in there with me. The main clerk began with worship, then instead of calling me up to preach, he gave his own message using up almost all the service time. I could feel the spirit of pride upon him. There is no greater accomplice to Satan in the church than the pride of man.
His message was brilliant by man’s standards. It followed a well-organized outline and stepped through a studied analysis of many Scriptures. He had quotes from famous men. He had analogies to make his points stronger. I was impressed with his intellect and oratory skills. But I felt no Holy Spirit.
When he was finished he sat down in the front row. He turned and looked back at me with eyes that said, “top that”. I felt sorry for him. We have too much flesh in the ministry. We are all but servants to a mighty God. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” (Romans 12:3).
So, there I was, ready to give my last message. I had one all prepared, but I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to put it down. Oh, how many times have I heard this before! Friends, you cannot be led by the Holy Spirit hanging onto your own plans.
I walked up front without my notes or any idea on what I might say. If you have the Holy Spirit, you never worry on what you need to say. Jesus promised us, “…the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12). Do you believe what Jesus says? If you would simply believe in the Word, your faith would be unstoppable!
I don’t remember the message I gave. I can tell you it was very short. Friends, the Holy Spirit does not need a long message, because every word of the Spirit is piercing unto the soul. We need more Holy Spirit messages if we are to have more Holy Spirit in our churches. Never think you are not capable, it is not about you, that is the point.
If you want to be led by the Spirit, you have to stop limiting how He might lead you. The Holy Spirit cannot lead you unless you are willing to follow. You cannot follow the Spirit unless you are walking in the Spirit. Your spiritual journey is not a natural path. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). Stop acting like an orphan when you are called to be a son.
The Lord had revealed to me at the beginning of this service the man who would get saved that day. For years I had this precious knowing when I preached, of who would get saved that day, and it never failed. Man may fail you, but the Lord never will. Jesus promised about the Holy Spirit, that “…whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). Do you believe the Word? Dare to believe and your life will never be the same!
There was no more time left for an altar call. But I knew that the Lord would make a way. We only worry when we do not trust. I started doing the altar call, and one by one the men would come up. After each one came up, I would just pray again for the next one, as the one I was shown that would be saved that day was not getting up. Learn to be more stubborn than the devils working against you.
Friends, I want you to know that the Lord gave me a great blessing on my last service in prison. The man He showed me that would get saved was the last one who came up. The Lord knew I would keep praying until that man came forward. Every man in the service got saved that day! “…to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Nobody filled by the Spirit is without the power of the Spirit. Stop underestimating what an extraordinary God can do through an ordinary person! Dare to be that person.
When they were all up front, I looked to the clerk who had taunted me to top his message. Friends, make no mistake, I did not top that man. But I want you to know, the Holy Spirit did. I asked this clerk to come up and lead the men through the prayer of salvation. The officers still were not coming, we were way over our time! Wouldn’t you know, I had time to individually speak a word into each of these men’s lives.
Stop thinking you need to be something. You need to be nothing. It is not by your abilities, but His. Stop thinking that God cannot use you, and then watch Him use you. God is not looking for great men and women, He is looking for broken men and women, that He could be great through them.
That was back in February of 2015, and I have not preached in a prison since then. Perhaps God will bless me to go back inside someday. But it does not matter where God sends me or where He sends you, but will we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit? I hope you do. You will never go wrong being led by the Holy Spirit.
Blessings to you,