The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? What if You Are in Prison?

Stephen James is our Director of Prison Ministry. He joined Christianity Explored Ministries in 2008 to help develop our courses for prisons, after spending time in prison himself.

Christmas is one of the hardest times to be in prison.

It’s meant to be a time spent with family; eating, drinking and enjoying life. When your freedom is taken from you at this time of year, being in prison has its biggest impact. I spent two Christmases inside and they were some of the lowest points of my life. You know exactly what you’re missing out on beyond those four walls and can spend up to 23 hours behind a locked door.

Recently, as I was running a Life Explored course in prison, some of the prisoners were very happy to tell the others that they were getting out before Christmas. I felt real pain for the guys who will still be inside because I’ve been there. But should we feel that pain with them? Well, it’s a ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Yes, because it’s meant to be the season of goodwill to all men, even those who are serving a prison sentence. We want everyone to experience the best gift anyone could receive and that’s freedom – not from a physical prison but from the slavery to sin, the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life, being with God forever.

No, because if you do the crime you must do the time. Prison is where rehabilitation is meant to take place and it’s at this time of year prisoners are more likely to do the deepest of soul searching and ask the bigger questions about life.

What can we pray?

  • Prisoners are more likely to attend services during the Christmas season, some will be seeking out the real meaning of Christmas.
  • Some prisons hold their own Christmas services, run by the prisoners themselves.
  • Prisoners tend to think about the future and what to do in the New Year, so Christmas is a good time for them to receive resources like “If You Could Ask God One Question,” by Barry Cooper and Paul Williams

It is through the above that we can pray that prisoners would encounter the real Jesus, and that this encounter would be life changing, at the deepest level of the heart.

How can we get involved?

  • The United States has lots of ministries that go into prisons regularly to take Bible studies, Sunday services and offer support to prisoners.
  • Many churches have their own prison ministries.
  • Do a simple Google search and find out what’s going on in your area.
  • Find out more about how you can support the work of Prison Fellowship International, as they use the Christianity Explored course as part of their The Prisoner’s Journey outreach to prisoners in some of the toughest prisons around the world.

For he himself [Jesus] is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). May we all know and enjoy his peace this Christmas!

(A version of this post first appeared on the Christianity Explored Ministries blog on December 3, 2017)

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