It's Alpha DAY!
Lord I believe, please help my unbelief! “Lord, is it really true that you frown upon our unbelief? I’ve never even thought of unbelief as a sin” I prayed after reading John 16:8-9. It’s not that I haven’t seen tons of miracles; like the day my friend prayed for chocolate and a chocolate bar appeared on her bed. Or the time we had no money for lunch and we discovered a bag of potato chips in our hotel room. But really, Lord, do you really care, are you really there?
I so often feel like the Father in Mark 9:24 “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” This prayer came from my 18 year old heart and here I am today over 25 years later still saying “Lord I believe, please help my unbelief” yet today God has surround me with experiences and prayer warriors as He leads me into a greater depth of faith.
This segment of my journey started in 2004 when I read the book “The Secrets of the Vine”. The author pointed out that one of the last things Jesus taught His disciples before His death was if you want fruit you need to prune the branches. I really didn’t like this message because I was enjoying my life and the author was relating the pruning of the branches with giving up “what is” for fruit.
Still in my disbelief God gave me a desire to sell my home, move in with my friends and buy another home a few months later. When I purchased my new home I knew this was the home God wanted me to live in but at the time I had no idea that most of my neighbors would have a desire to be transforming influences in society nor did I know that nearby was a woman’s federal prison.
Knowing the effect Alpha is having on transforming people’s lives, shortly after my move, I went to a regional Alpha prayer meeting and was asked to pray for the police. My cousin had told me how the police were involved with Alpha in her city so this was an easy prayer request, but I really didn’t know what God had in stored for me!!!
A few days later my neighbor invited me to attend “The citizen’s police academy” and I said yes because it sounded better than watching TV.
What I didn’t know at the time was that God had an obvious calling on my life. My first night at the course Rogers was there filming and to my surprise the person behind the camera I knew as someone who had come to know the Lord through an Alpha course I ran. Then I looked at the police logo and I saw that it had a lion and a lamb on it (and I know the concept of the lion and the lamb lying down together comes from scripture), and then the wife of one of the teens from a youth group I had once run was the presenter. Her presentation was on Community Policing and she shared about how her team went into a government housing area and empowered the teens to make a difference in their community and the calls to 911 were significantly decreased! I sat there in disbelief, that God would make my calling to this location so obvious, so again I prayed “Lord I believe, please help my unbelief”. Yet it was not over!
One day I received an invitation to a team meeting for a group that wanted to run Alpha at the prison. By this time a Salvation Army officer had already encouraged me to do some volunteer work there, so I had my security clearance, so I thought I’d go to the meeting. You also need to know that a friend of mine, a year before, had constantly talked about volunteering at a prison and I had always said, sure I’ll help you get there but never did I think I should get involved! Well I went to the meeting and left the meeting in charge!!! I really don’t know how that happened because I felt so naïve. I wondered what I’d do if they started heckling me etc. The one saving grace is this team had been planning on taking Alpha into the prison for a while so they had a solid prayer team in place and I know this made a difference but again I prayed “Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief”.
Our first Alpha course was full and they were amazed at such a high rate of attendance over a period of 12 weeks. The women LOVED it. They would literally walk around the compound on a Wednesday saying to each other “What day is today?” and the correct response was “It’s Alpha day!!!” Of course, I was naïve and stupidly chose a joke to tell them that went something like this “I prayed to God for patience because if I prayed to God for strength I’d kill him!” to which one of our gracious guest says “Oh, I think there are a few of us already here for that!” (Praise God for a gracious audience!) As volunteers we loved it too. We were so loved and appreciated.
I told the women that there was a prayer team praying for them and one of the women just broke down and cried! She couldn’t believe that anyone would care enough to pray for her. After the course was over we asked the guards what they thought about it and they told us they could see the difference in the women. In fact, they couldn’t wait for the next course to start which makes me believe the change in the women made their jobs so much easier. Then one of the women told me she woke up one night and felt called by God to start prayer warriors on the inside. They started a prayer request box and now when women come into the prison they are told that there are women available to pray with them if they so desire. Volunteers even send prayer requests into the prison because it seems that God is answering prayers in amazing ways. I can remember saying to the women “Isn’t it just like God to go into prison to start a national revival”. Only God knows how many people have attended an Alpha course because one of their family members or friends has called them from prison and said take an Alpha course, it’s wonderful.
One of our first Alpha graduates is successfully in community and she just finished running an Alpha course in her home and her group continues to meet for bible study. I met one of her guests the other day in church and she told me it was the first time she’d ever been in a church. And I pray, “Lord I believe, please help my unbelief!” Now I think, “Isn’t it just like God to give a ‘church saint like me’ a few lifers as prayer warriors….” Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief”. So 25 years later I’m still praying “Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief” yet I know all my “crisis of belief” have prepared me for such a time as this and God still blesses me with opportunities to share what I’ve learned. “So Lord, yes, I do believe, please draw me close to you, and thanks for each person in my life that has come along side of me as a mentor and/or a prayer warrior because Lord, yes I do believe, please help my unbelief.”
2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
from Sherrill, Canada Alpha for Prisons