Contemplative Prayer in Prison?
In January of 2014, Josh began serving alongside Joseph Byrd in contemplative prayer practices and spiritual direction at the EC Brooks Correctional Facility. In the Fall of 2017 Joseph departed and Josh assumed the lead role of a small group of volunteers who continue to visit the prison twice a month. The practice involves an hour of group spiritual direction in the morning with a larger group of 15-20 men. The afternoon is a two-hour session with a smaller group of prisoners who are especially interested in growing their own ability to facilitate sacred conversations as directors.
Over the years we have seen men take more initiative, leadership, and ownership in spiritual direction practices, extending the peace of our prayer practices to the rest of their lives in the prison. The transformative gift of spiritual direction is evident when a prisoner demonstrates growth in the form of a kind, self-controlled confidence in his consistent ability to listen to others with patience and generosity. This especially is evident when the men report choosing not to use violence in the yard or in their cell block to resolve conflict. Ownership of spiritual direction is personally evident when a prisoner reports self-love and the ability to forgive themselves in ways that help them be patient and forgiving of others.
We have discovered that ours is not a tradition prison ministry of outreach where we arrive at the prison to exclusively benefit the prisoners. This is a shared prayer practice among equals. Or, to follow the Spirit one step further, we go into the prison to witness Jesus in and among the prisoners. Spiritual direction is a practice that leads us to recognize the movements of the Holy Spirit that precede and stretch beyond our bi-monthly visits.
Here are a few podcasts you can listen to and learn more.
In this episode of the Renovaré podcast, Nathan Foster graciously draws out much of the scope of what we are up to in the prison.