Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Deliverance from Our Personal Prisons

By Dennis Pollock


The idea of going to prison is a fearful thought for most people. Who would want to be in a place where nearly all your freedoms are taken away? You do what you are told, you live in a tiny cell, sharing it with whom you are assigned, and nearly all the pleasures of life have been stripped from you. You cannot move where you like, live where you like, or do what you like. You are a prisoner. You constantly mark your time, waiting for the day they will release you, and your freedom is restored.


In America only around five percent of our population will serve time in prison at some point in their lives. But almost all of us, male or female, will find ourselves in some sort of prison if we live long enough. Our "prisons" are not normally made with iron bars and locks; rather they involve highly unpleasant situations which we find unable to change.


We brainstorm, we desperately search on Google for answers, and we make herculean efforts to extract ourselves from our misery, but all our labors are in vain. We discover to our dismay that there is no quick solution, and we sometimes fear that there may not even be a long-term solution. To our horror we begin to think we may live in our personal prison for years or even decades. All our best efforts yield no more success than if we were attempting to break down a brick wall with a feather.


One More Thing to Do!


As children of God through faith in Jesus, we know that there is something more we can do. We can pray! And we do pray – and pray and pray and pray. Sometimes we find deliverance quickly once serious prayer is applied, but not always. Some situations seem to be more stubborn than others. And in some cases, we pray for months or even years, and still nothing happens. We beg and we plead and we weep and we implore the Lord. We pray loudly and we pray softly. We quote Scripture after Scripture and "stand on the promises." Still no relief comes. What else is left?


If we have diligently made every effort to break free from that which is oppressing us, stealing our joy, and holding us back from what we feel the Lord has for us, there is yet another strategy. Let me share two stories, one from a man who lived in America before we became the United States and another which came to me in a dream.


The early American was a man was named Ephraim Howe. His story was told by early American historian Cotton Mather, and then recounted by Peter Marshall in his book "The Light and the Glory." Ephraim set sail in a sailboat with his two sons and two friends in September, 1676. He intended to travel from Boston to New Haven, a journey which should have lasted only a week or so. They expected to stay within sight of the American coast. But the hapless travelers were caught up in a terrible storm which blew their ship far out into the Atlantic and did not permit them to make their way back to shore.


The weather turned cold, their food ran out, and within a few weeks Ephraim's two sons had died of exposure. Eventually the ship was driven onto a small island. But in the cold weather, with little food and no decent shelter, Ephraim's two friends soon died, and he was left alone.


Ephraim Survives


Amazingly, Ephraim did not succumb to the terrible conditions. He apparently found or made a shelter, used one of the guns from the ships to kill seagulls, and caught fish to sustain himself. Ephraim was a godly Christian man, and he did what godly Christian men do in such circumstances. He did his best to survive, and he prayed constantly. His one "prayer point" was quite simple and direct: "Lord, save me, deliver me, send someone along in a boat to get me off this island."


Month after month he prayed but still there was no answer from heaven. He saw several fishing boats from a long distance, but none came close to his island. Still he prayed. But for a long time there was no apparent answer.


After many months of fervent intercession and pleading with God for deliverance from his island prison, Ephraim Howe suddenly had a revelation. He realized that God had kept him alive and relatively healthy for many months on this island and he had not properly appreciated this kindness from His Creator, nor had he given thanks for this as he should have. And so he decided to have a special "Thanksgiving Day" of his own, all alone on his island. There was no turkey, corn on the cob, or cranberries, of course. But on this day Ephraim dispensed with begging God for deliverance, and instead spent his prayer time thanking God for His many kindnesses. He gave praise to God that in the midst of all his misery and grief over lost loved ones, God had been good to him and had preserved him all those months.


According to Cotton Mather: "Immediately after this, a vessel belonging to Salem did pass by that island, and seeing this poor servant of God there, they took him in." Ephraim reached the American shore around ten months after departing. His diet on the island had been sparse, and he no doubt had lost a lot of weight, but he was alive. And he had learned a valuable lesson about the power of thanksgiving to break the chains of prisons.


My Dream


Many years ago, I woke up from a vivid dream which seemed to perfectly illustrate this same exact principle. I dreamed I was a prisoner, and it was my time to come before a parole board where they would determine if I should be released. I came into the room where men and women sat who would judge me and decide my case. I was escorted to a chair around a large table. I sat down and told those around me that it would be good to pray before we began the proceedings. Without allowing anyone to say no, I bowed my head and began to pray. I prayed the same way I pray when I am not dreaming, saying, "Heavenly Father, I thank You…" I have said those words thousands of times in non-dream prayers, and now in this dream I was saying them again.


But I had no sooner begun than someone grabbed my arm and told me that I didn't need to pray any further. They told me that since I had a thankful heart, they could see that I had the correct attitude and I would not be kept in jail any longer. I would be set free. It was wonderful to think that I didn't even need to state my case for parole. The words "I thank You," spoken to God, had done the job.


I awoke after that, and it did not take much of a gift of interpretation of dreams to figure out that God was telling me that an attitude of thankfulness is a big key to getting out of the personal prisons in which we find ourselves from time to time throughout our lives.


Power of Gratitude


Does the Bible declare that there is power in thankfulness? Indeed it does. The Psalmist declares: "Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name" (Psalm 100:2,4). Gates are made to either keep people out or let people in. We are told that we are allowed entry into the presence of the Lord as we enter through God's gates with thanksgiving and praise.


In another psalm we read: "Whoever offers praise glorifies Me" (Psalm 50:23). When God is glorified, faith is released, God's power flows, strongholds are demolished, and prison doors are opened. On one of Paul's evangelistic/apostolic travels he and Barnabas were arrested, beaten severely, and thrown into chains. You might suppose that experiencing such torment might leave them in a depressed, non-talkative mood as they sat in darkness, their bodies stinging from their wounds. But this was not the case. Instead, they began a praise service. The Bible tells us:


But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed… (Acts 16:25-26).


Chains are Broken, Doors Open


With all that singing, praising, and worshiping, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully, and the result was that chains broke off their bodies and prison doors swung wide open! An attitude of praise and thankfulness had somehow brought about a release of the power of the Holy Spirit and no chains or prison doors could stand up to the power that was unleashed.


Could it be any plainer? God loves thankful people, and He moves on their behalf in dramatic and powerful ways to loose them from whatever prisons they find themselves in – whether a literal prison or a prison of depression, or poverty, or loneliness, or sickness, or any other prison.


It is not that thankfulness overcomes the need for times of prayer and beseeching God for His mercies. This definitely has its place. Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock at the doors of heaven. But while we ask and seek and knock, let us also remember to thank God for the mercies and kindnesses He has shown us, even in the midst of our trials and "prisons." There is always much to be thankful to God for, and when we allow our prayers of thankfulness to ascend heavenward, blessings, favor, and power will begin to descend in our direction. Even if we are suffering terribly, the fact that we have become children of God by putting our faith in Jesus Christ is reason enough to thank God all our days. Heaven is waiting for us! Victory and breakthrough may happen almost as soon as we start to praise and thank our God, or it may take some days or months or years. But in every situation, we are to be a grateful people.


If we bother to look around, we will soon find that God's kindness has been poured out upon us in myriads of ways and in many different forms. We who are safe in Christ, forgiven, justified, and redeemed through the blood of His cross, are a blessed people. It is right that we thank God for it. And sometimes prayers with thanksgiving break chains and open doors for us today!




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