How to Get out of Prison
2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT)
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Prison is thought of as a location, but it can also be a state of mind. Everyone who is honest with themselves knows that you don’t have to be behind bars to experience prison. Any bondage to anything is a form of prison.
Physical prisons cannot remove the sense of freedom a person has in their hearts when they are in relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul and Silas are a prime example.
Acts 16:25 (NLT)
Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
There could be many reasons a person is in bondage, but one of the ways we can set ourselves free is by choosing to live a lifestyle of forgiveness. There are a few key decisions that I made many years ago that helped redefine my life. Without hesitation, I would say that choosing to forgive was the most important one.
It was during the summer of 1992, over twenty-five years ago, that I was in a physical prison at the London Ohio Correctional Facility. I was also in a mental and spiritual prison because I was blind to my own anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. But while reading a verse of scripture that I had read hundreds of times prior, God started speaking to me through it, and I was shaken to the core.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-5 (NLT)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
Why this had not resonated with me before, I have no idea. But that day it jumped out, and I was immediately convicted in my heart that there was something very wrong with me. I had a mental list of those who had wronged me, I had a mental list of their offenses, and every day in prison I was thinking about that list and stewing in anger, resentment, and bitterness. But the moment I read that verse, the Lord kindly yet firmly revealed to me my skewed thinking, and I knew what I needed to do. I needed to choose to forgive. Once I did, two things took place. First, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me. Second, I felt as if I was no longer in prison. Yes, I was still in physical prison: the razor wire was still present; I was still treated like a prisoner; I was required to live in the exact same environment as all the other prisoners. But in my heart, I was free. It was a supernatural moment, and as long as I maintained this new attitude of forgiveness, the feeling of freedom remained.
Are you tired of being in bondage? Here is my encouragement: forgive. Forgive yourself for every foolish decision you’ve made, every foolish word you’ve spoken, every foolish action you’ve taken. Forgive others for every foolish decision they’ve made, every foolish word they have spoken, and every foolish action they have taken. Then see what God does in your heart.
On March 19, 1993, I was released from physical prison, but that was not the day of my release. My day of release took place eight months before when I decided to forgive.
The following is a prayer of forgiveness. It is only a sample, but I’ve found it to be a good one. Some people carry this with them everywhere they go, and the moment they recognize they have let unforgiveness sneak up on them, they re-pray this prayer, they re-forgive. It is like having a key to your own cell.
Dear Heavenly Father,
It is my choice today to forgive (Write in name) ______________ for the offense that he/she brought against me. (Describe offense briefly) _______________________________________________________________
I forgive him/her unconditionally for the things done that brought hurt in my life.
I drop every charge that I have brought against him/her and give up the right to ever charge him/her again for this offense. I cancel every judgment I have made against him/her.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I release him/her from all responsibility for the hurt that his/her behavior provoked in me, and I assume all responsibility for having chosen to be offended.
Heavenly Father, I drop every charge I’ve had against You for permitting this to happen to me and ask You to please forgive me for any way that I have blamed this offense on You.
I drop every charge I’ve levied against myself for every wrong attitude, action, and reaction associated with this offense.
Heavenly Father, as I have forgiven (Write name) ____________ for the hurt I have experienced, please forgive me of my hurt, bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness.
Holy Spirit, please come and heal my thoughts, my emotions, and my memories from all the damage and defilement caused by this offense.
Thank you, Father, for my healing.
An aside to this idea of forgiveness came from one of the inmates this past week as we were discussing the lesson on forgiveness from Chapter 10 of the Lessons for Life Course. Here’s what he said:
“I found that when I did something a little more than just say I forgave someone, that it really stuck for me. I was in a meeting where we wrote down the names of those we needed to forgive, and after praying a prayer of forgiveness, we burned our list. I did this several years ago, and I can honestly say I let it go for good.”
This is actually something we do during every one of our Brothers in Blue prison events, and I too have found it to be effective. If burning isn’t possible, tearing the list into pieces works well also.
Speaking of Brothers in Blue, we had a great weekend this past month. If I counted correctly, we had over twenty men participate in baptism, and several shared with me their personal stories of surrender to God. Thank you for your prayers.