Revival didn’t cease with the onset of the winter holidays. To the contrary, it picked up steam.
Salvations and a New Year, January 1, 2008
Although we didn’t hold service at prison a week ago due to the Christmas holidays, we did have a service on New Year’s Eve—and what a service it was. The worship was wonderful and the word went forth as usual, but it was the latter moments of the service that were something to be remembered. According to prison policy, only 100 men can attend chapel service at a time. Of the 100 present, almost 10% of the entire meeting came forth to receive Jesus Christ at the time of the invitation. Eight came forth at first. According to our practice, others who volunteer to be their supporting brethren (and even mentors in some cases) came forward as well to stand with the new brethren as we prayed the prayer of salvation together. Afterwards, we prayed for other needs as some of the brothers testified as to how God had answered some of their prayers.
As the meeting was concluding, something else took place. For some months, a young man with large gang related tattoos scrolled across his forehead and both cheeks—we shall call him Jacob—came to me privately. Very shy, with almost no eye contact to speak of, he said: “I’m getting out in 2 more days. Will you pray for me?” Certainly I was willing to do that, but not without first confronting him with the decision to accept or outright reject Jesus Christ before he was to make his departure. As we were speaking, God simply took over. Without going into specifics, Jacob was confronted in a way that only God can confront. Moments later, as we were running out of time for use of the facility, Jacob also prayed to receive the Lord and Savior. I didn’t truly appreciate just how significant this time was until I was told afterward that the young man had been involved in a heinous crime involving 3 individuals prior to his incarceration. How God truly transforms the heart that desires Him.
I will close with a prayer request. One of our congregation was savagely beaten last week by 8 hooded men for allegedly being a “snitch.” He is currently in protective custody, which means absolutely no visitors. His name is David. Please pray for his health, protection and future. I’m saddened to know that I can’t say goodbye before he is transferred to some other facility.
Still More Salvations and Testimonies, January 9, 2008
I want to briefly take a moment to give a quick overview of how this week’s prison ministry went. For the first time since the revival began 3 months ago, our team sensed something spiritually wasn’t quite right. The praise team was on edge, too loud and seemingly having an “off” night. Many in the congregation seemed not to be focused. Members, not only of our team but church members as well, had been experiencing quite a bit of difficulties throughout the day—some of it significant. Bluntly, I believe spiritual warfare was taking place. After the time of music, our congregation went outside for baptisms while at lease one of our team members stayed inside to intercede. When we returned to continue service, we shared in 1 last song before commencing with our bible study. How amazing! The entire place was filled with praise, with almost every hand raised and voices lifted. What a difference a few minutes and some intercession had made. When the music stopped, there was such an evident peace that everyone appeared to notice. At that point, it seemed appropriate to address before the congregation what had taken place.
I’m also very pleased to let you know that 2 more inmates came to Christ and 3 others were baptized. I never get tired of seeing what God does.
We’ve also decided to institute another feature in our service—testimony time. Over the last 6 weeks—almost as long as we’ve been studying the topic of prayer—at least someone in every meeting testifies regarding answered prayer from the week before. Most often testimonies relate to healing, but not always. This week, a brother that we prayed for last week, shared that the obstruction in his throat that didn’t allow him to sing was gone the day following our intercession. In his own words: “I’ve been singing all week-long.” Another brother testified how he’d been hurt in a sporting event, but that as he’d prayed afterward, the problem was gone the next day. This week, because so many were requesting prayer, all those in need were asked to stand where they were. Then others sitting nearby were asked to go to those standing and to pray for them. The challenge was for everyone to put into practice all that we’ve been studying over the past weeks. I eagerly await next week’s time of sharing as to how God has answered prayers from this week.
Healings Multiplied, January 29, 2008
Over the past 2 months, we’ve come to regularly expect to witness God do some things that we’ve generally not observed with any consistent frequency over the 12 years our team has been ministering at this facility—the powerful evidence of God answering prayers within hours of their utterance. Last night, we concluded a 2 and a half month study of prayer. (From my perspective, it was one of the most revealing studies I’ve every participated in.) With the conclusion of the study and just prior to our time of praying for the inmates’ needs, we passed the microphone around the chapel for men to share how God had answered their prayers since the last time we met. At least a half-dozen stood to testify. One shared how he’d been having trouble with a hamstring for some time; that he’d have to stop walking to re-stretch it at the conclusion of each lap of his walk (or run). Last week, after prayer specifically for his situation, he testified how he returned to his dorm where his hamstring began to burn and cause him some measure of discomfort. The next morning, he returned to the exercise area where he concluded 20 laps without incident! He’s had no further problems. Another testified of having been healed from stomach pain after a team member laid hands on him and prayed. Still another (you may recollect a brother having been healed from an obstacle in his throat) testified that after we prayed the last week for a neck problem, he was healed. Another shared that after his family’s house burned to the ground during the Christmas holiday, the Lord moved him to fervently pray for their immediate needs. As a result, the community has joined together to rebuild the burned house. Similar prayer needs were expressed the week prior and God responded then with the same faithfulness as with that witnessed last night. Several other powerful manifestations occurred before the meeting concluded, but it should suffice to say that our God is a loving God who truly cares for the needs of His people and is willing to respond to fervent prayer.
I will conclude by saying, the events that are regularly taking place are not Pentecostal or charismatic—they’re simply answers to the prayers of God’s children who come from a variety of backgrounds. We recognize that it is God’s prerogative to answer or not to answer prayer, according to His sovereign purpose in each of our lives. My hope for all of us is that we learn to expect God to do those things we ask Him to do (matters that are in His perfect counsel) and no longer be surprised when He does answer our petitions.
Healings and Other Answered Prayers, February 5, 2008
Our service at prison last night might best be described as a time of testifying to God’s faithfulness in answering prayer. One week ago, we finished a 10 week study on prayer. Last night, the brothers had an opportunity to share how God had been answering their prayers over the past week. I’ll let the brothers speak for themselves.
Brother A had been experiencing a 3 year-long struggle with acid reflux due to his former drug use. While praying over the matter with another brother, God healed him. Not only was that notable, but the brother that prayed for him was also healed at that time of an undisclosed affliction—something they had not even been praying for.
Brother B had asked for prayer that someone in his family would contact him since he’d not heard from his family for 6 months. Within the week, he’d received a letter from his family. (As an observation, it is worth noting that in the time it took for him to receive the letter, I can only surmise his family must have written about the time of his prayer request.)
Brother C had asked for healing for his separated shoulder. He was supposed to be operated on but when the doctor saw the shoulder, he said there was no longer a need. God had healed it.
Brother D reported that due to an accident years ago, he was left with an injured leg, arm and neck. In addition he was suffering from some kind of cramps. After prayer, he was healed.
Brother E reminded us that 1 week ago, when my father (Ross Lanier) was bleeding uncontrollably at the hospital, that God showed him that by the time I got in my vehicle to go home from the service, there would be some good news regarding his condition. In fact, I well remember that when I did get to the car, I had a message from my sister who was still at the hospital and unable to be at the service that night. When I called her at 9 pm, she said that Dad had just turned the corner—that the doctors finally got his bleeding to stop. It had only been 10 minutes prior that as a group, the brothers had finished praying for Dad. How wonderful that moment was.
Brother F shared that on Christmas, at God’s instruction, he posted a prayer on his dorm door that everyone in his cell should make parole in 2008. Out of 6 “cellies,” 4 have gone home and only that brother and 1 other remain. (Now that’s an inmate’s prayer.)
Brother G shared that his prayer had been for “spiritual” healing, having to do with a situation at his home church. He received a letter from the church and apparently, the healing he’d requested had been granted.
Brother H reported that his clothes had been stolen out of the washer. After prayer, they were returned.
Let me remind you, these reports covered only things that took place in the last 7 days. One has to wonder about all those accounts that weren’t shared, perhaps by brothers who were unable to attend due to the 100 inmate limit. We may never know. But what we do know is this: God is willing to answer the prayers of His children.
A Change of Direction, May 28, 2008
It has been approximately 3 months since our last prison update. Many of you have asked why you haven’t received anything during that time. All I can say is that the lull was most certainly not in any way due to inactivity on God’s part, but rather a problem I was not certain how to overcome. The difficulty I refer to has nothing to do with a problem in the usual sense—I simply have not known how to report prison events in a way that everyone can accept. After much consideration, I’ve finally decided to report our most recent service as it took place, that Jesus might be exalted as He deserves. I’ll be content to leave any matters of acceptance between you and your Lord.
As we began the service, the time of praise was awesome. Our praise team consists of a talented group of musicians (keyboard, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, mandolin and drums) and choir. With singers moving in an almost fluid synchronization—as only a black gospel choir can do—praise was sweet; flowing from a range of old-time hymns to country gospel and concluding with praise choruses.
Our series on moving in the spiritual gifts—something I haven’t taught on in 18 years and never at a prison facility—is about to be concluded after a 3 month journey. (As a note, I’ve attempted to use all my exegetical and hermeneutical understanding as I’ve made every effort to accurately portray the purpose and function of God’s gifts to the church. But beyond that, I’ve also endeavored to take such information out of the theoretical arena, as I’ll touch upon momentarily.) Over the months, I’ve been so very pleased to see the response of so many. It’s been a most rewarding study, especially now that I’m beginning to see the fruits of our study manifested in such powerful ways. This week’s service is just a sample of what God is doing among those who are willing to receive His powerful hand in ministry.
Ordinarily, as we conclude the time of study, we enter a time of sharing testimonies. The brothers are encouraged to take a minute or 2 to share what God has done in their lives in the week since our last meeting. This is usually the time when inmates share their answered prayers and testify to healings, etc. But this night was to be different.
Before I touch upon the night’s events, I want to first say that in our services, we try to take little for granted. From November through February, we witnessed God’s grace, largely in the way of physical healings. Indeed, at one time, there were as many as a half-dozen unmistakable healings reported in a single night. But something strange and wonderful began to happen about the time we began our study on spiritual gifts in late February. The healings abruptly seemed to stop and prophetic utterances began—big time. It was as though one light was switched off and another turned on. (Although prophecy today is a difficult concept to understand in a traditional and western worldview, it is none-the-less biblical. As a minister, I do all I can to allow God’s Word to speak as originally intended, without trying to attach to it unnecessary and unbiblical qualifiers.) As I look back, God simply shifted gears for a reason I’m not entirely sure I understand. While this may be difficult for some to accept, please stay with me, for I believe what I’m about to testify to will most certainly speak for itself.
The congregation was asked to be silent before the Lord as we prayed for the Holy Spirit’s direction. After a moment of quiet before a packed congregation, one of our team inquired “Who here just received bad news from home?” The minister knew nothing of any particular situation other than what God was revealing. Two men rose to their feet and were asked to come forward. Facing the congregation, everyone in attendance was asked to softly pray and ask God to give them a message for either (or both) of the brothers that had just come forward. Everyone was already fully aware that prophecy is given by God for “for edification and exhortation and consolation.” (1 Cor. 14:3 NASU) Now, nearing the end of a 3 month-long lesson, was the opportunity to put teaching into practice. I watched as approximately 8 to 10 men came forward, evenly distributed between the 2 hurting brothers, to encourage them with what they believed God had given them to minister. After all had delivered their encouragement, I asked the 2 if they would care to share whether or not God had ministered. Specifically, were the words they’d received accurate and meaningful? Both were eager to testify. In brief, things about their situations—which no one that came forward could have known—were addressed in the most comforting of ways. In fact, one of the men gave his life to Christ later in the service—he wasn’t even a Christian! (If you’re doubting this, consider 1 Cor. 14:24-25, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” NASU)
I must also testify as to what happened to me during that time. When brothers were coming forward to minister, I too had 2 men separately approach me. One said he wanted to help to usher brothers forward during our ministry times because he believed God was showing him that those of us who minister during the prayer times needed someone to help maintain order—that we are supposed to focus more on praying for the needs of the inmates 1 on 1, and not be concerned with logistics. Amen! What an answer to my recent prayers. He could never have known my unspoken prayer request and accompanying frustration on this matter. The second man was equally appreciated by me for his willingness to take a chance on his step of faith. In brief, he shared 2 very specific ministry matters with me that I believe God had already been speaking to me regarding the kind of ministry I was about to embark upon and when to expect it. In fact, the brother was 100% right on the mark as far as I could tell, and I assure you he had absolutely no way of knowing what was on my heart. (I truly wonder what the state of the Church in America would be like if more Christian ministers would take a chance on preaching the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ—the part that includes the work of the Holy Spirit today—not just that which conforms more to our comfort areas.)
While I continued to pray with some of the men that came forward for more prayer, Judy sensed God wanted to give those present who might not know Christ, an opportunity to respond. Three men came forward to receive Jesus. As I’ve already stated, one of them was 1 of the 2 men that had received bad news from home. It was indeed ironic that by his response to the invitation, he had exchanged his bad news for the Good News of Jesus Christ.
It wasn’t long after our practicum and invitation that we were forced to conclude matters due to the lateness of the hour. After praying for a few more brothers, our team made its way from the chapel to the main gate about a quarter of a mile up the way. As always, we are escorted by 3 or 4 of the brethren. One of them, Mr. B, could hardly wait to tell us of an answer to a prayer we had prayed the previous week. He told me the prior week that he had been experiencing demonic activity for some time, likely because his cell mates were heavily involved in the role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. He would often awake to something pressing down on him—his face and chest—only to find nothing visibly there. He would cry out to Jesus to find relief. (This is not unusual at a prison. I’ve had others recently make similar statements.) In brief, I remember we prayed together for his freedom from the demonic. As it turned out, not only was he no longer troubled, but he had also been healed from a neck and shoulder injury. And for those of you who can accept it, our team prayed over Mr. B and God revealed a number of things to the brother that he already knew about—and we didn’t—in part to validate what he was about to experience with his younger brother once he was set free. Of course, we didn’t even know he had a brother, but he knew and testified to the validity of everything that was spoken over him that night. Nothing could have been more special about our departure—or so we thought in our moment of exuberance—until another brother who had accompanied us to the gate shared how he too had been healed of a leg problem when Ross and Jo (my parents and fellow team members) had prayed for him the previous week. By that time, we knew we had to exit the gate or risk floating over the 3 rows of razor wire stretched across the parameter fence.
As I look back, I’m amazed at what God does in the lives of the humbled and broken. Is this what it takes to experience true revival? Yes, in many aspects. Hearts must be willing to let the Lord break through layers of self-inflicted strife and struggle. We must come to the place where we’re willing to let God have His way so in the truest sense, He might bring forth His glorious changes that we could never access in our own strengths. Most inmates have little or nothing in life; many expect even less when they re-enter society, fully aware of the struggles that soon lay ahead upon release. But those who’ve embraced Christ; who’ve experienced His love and grace firsthand; who know that true revival begins in the heart and then goes forth to affect the lives of so many others–these are the children of God that will share the things of Christ, having lived them in exceptional ways.
There’s one more thing that needs to be spoken. Did you note the ongoing regularity in which God moved powerfully among the inmates from the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2008? These accounts are absolutely true and were witnessed by many. The men were not only willing to explore the spiritual things of the Spirit, but came to eagerly desire to walk in them. How wonderful it would be to see something similar break forth in the churches of the world.
As an added note, to date, we are beginning to see the onset of very similar encounters with Christ at the very same prison. May God have His way.