Bible Study in Prison—God’s Love Resurrects Lives
Nancy Humphrey Case, author of Simple Prayers for people of all faiths (or no faith) and a guest on our site, volunteers at a prison, leading inmates in Bible study. This work is making a difference, uplifting and transforming lives.
Years ago, I had a spiritual mentor who did a lot of work with people on parole and youth at correctional facilities. I thought it was noble, but was scared to do it myself. Yet, it was always in the back of my mind. A few years ago, I found out about some church members going into the Vermont state prison to do Bible study sessions. I liked the idea but was really nervous, so I put it off for a year. Then something I read from the Bible, combined with the uplift and blessings I was feeling from my spiritual growth, inspired me to finally do it! I realized my actions had to be more in line with what I love. So I signed up to volunteer at the prison and took the training.
When it came time to go, I was a bit scared. It’s a men’s prison, and there’s no stratification according to the type or severity of crime; anyone can come into Bible study. I asked the person I was with if it was dangerous. She said that there is some risk, but the inmates who come are coming because they want to study the Bible. I thought about Daniel going into the lions’ den. He felt safe because he knew God was in control. If he could trust God’s control in a den of lions, I could certainly feel safe among these inmates.
And it has been wonderful. The men who come are so sincere and eager to hear the Word and find out how it applies to them. They have really good questions; they’re really thinking. Many of them are grateful they’re in prison, away from the temptations on the outside, such as drinking and drugs.
The last time I went, there were about 5 inmates, plus the man I co-teach with. One of the inmates shared an experience: “I used to read the Bible, but then my mom died in a tragic accident. I couldn’t figure out how God would take her away from us.” He wanted that question answered, so we read the parable of the tares and the wheat. We talked about how God wasn’t responsible for evil (represented by the tares) because “an enemy hath done this”—sowed the bad seed in the field (Matt 13:28 KJV). That made sense to him, and I could see he was beginning to feel his question was being answered.
Another fellow argued that God must not be all-powerful because bad things are happening. Well, that’s a common line of reasoning, but it’s not what the Bible teaches. It says God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hab 1:13). So I shared the idea that to the sun there is no darkness. The sun never sees or experiences darkness because wherever the sun is, there is no darkness. The second inmate really liked that idea.
We continued the discussion by reading together the story of Elijah raising the widow’s son from the dead. We talked about how it was not God’s will that the child die. Rather, the power of God restored life to the boy. God’s power isn’t something that takes away; God’s power heals. My co-teacher and I then shared examples from our own lives of physical healings we’d had through prayer, and that’s when the guys really took notice.
After this, the inmate who’d been arguing about theory wanted us to pray for a little girl who was very ill—the daughter of a friend of his. My co-teacher led a prayer in which he assured us there was nothing to fear because God’s love was right there with that little girl, and divine Love is all-powerful.
It’s been a joy to serve at the prison, witnessing how “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18) and how divine Love transforms lives.