Religion defines evil and gives people the moral strength to resist."
Prayer was never one of my strengths (maybe it's a Lutheran thing), but I've always admired a women who could stand in front of a group with just the right-sounding words rolling off her tongue as if she got up that morning and God handed her a new Psalm.
Not me. My prayers sounded more like begging with an occasional "thank you" thrown in to make sure I could return later with more requests. I rarely prayed out loud and never in front of others . . . until I met the women of Block 12.
They prayed about everything . . .
- "God, let there be peace in the block."
- "Protect my family while I am away."
- "I'm afraid I will die in prison."
- "Lord let the judge see that I' m serious about changing."
- "Help my mother to forgive me."
- "Jesus, take away my desire to use drugs and alcohol."
- "Father God, care for all inmates, everywhere."
- "Bless the guards and give them kind hearts."
- "Thank you for sending Jean and Linda."
I, on the other hand, relied heavily on the Lord's Prayer, confident in my ability to say it out loud and with a group. So, at the end of each class, we joined hands and prayed. "Our Father, who art in heaven . . ."
It sounded so 'religious' when spoken in unison. It covered all the bases - praise, requests, thanksgiving, forgiveness. Jesus hadn't left anything out, and there was no need for me to come up with original material.I figured the praying part of class was covered. Then I discovered a person could get lost in a crowd of voices by mumbling to fit in.
I first noticed this one evening when we finished praying. Lana whispered to the woman next to her, "Don't worry, I'll teach you the words this week."
I went home that night grieved by my lack of sensitivity. Lord, what kind of Christian thinks everyone knows about Jesus and his famous prayer? I typed up cards with words to the Lord's Prayer and added the Twenty-third Psalm for good measure. It was a start, but it wasn't enough. I knew the women needed more than memorized words at the end of the group. The truth was they needed more than I could teach them.
Read more excerpts from The Women of Block 12: Voices from a Jail Ministry at: