The Prayer That Saved a Prison

The stand-off between inmates and officials at an Ohio maximum security prison is finally over . . . and everywhere people are breathing a sigh of relief that it didn't blow up into another Waco. Governor George Voinovich is being praised for his patience and restraint. During the 11-day stand-off, some of his advisors recommended making an armed assault on the cell block held by some 400 inmates. But Voinovich refused. And now that the ordeal has ended with a peaceful surrender, everyone is singing his praises. But the governor himself is giving the credit elsewhere. In a prepared statement, he thanked the millions of people across Ohio "who prayed for God's help." "Let us give thanks to God that it is over," he said. "Our prayers have been answered." What a humble attitude. And what an encouragement to Christians everywhere to be diligent in obeying Paul's injunction to pray for our leaders. Today on the National Day of Prayer we ought to meditate on 1 Timothy 2, where Paul tells us to pray for those who exercise political authority, "that we may live peaceful and quiet lives." As we think about that verse, the peaceful end to the crisis in Ohio ought to encourage us: It may well be an example, just as the governor said, of the power of prayer to affect our nation's public life. Consider that the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville houses the most dangerous inmates collected from prisons throughout the state—chronic troublemakers, fighters, drug offenders. These are the toughest of the tough. When they murdered a guard and started killing other inmates, authorities anticipated the worst. Given their fears, it's all the more astounding that the governor kept a cool head. He never even came close to ordering an assault. Negotiators actually showed kindness to the rioters—bringing them food, for example, when they hadn't demanded any, a gesture that led to progress in the talks. One can't help drawing a contrast between Lucasville, Ohio, and Waco, Texas. In Waco federal agents lost their patience and launched an assault that led to a massive loss of life and endless finger-pointing. But in Lucasville, Governor Voinovich has earned the highest praise for his gentle touch, which ended the bloodiest prison rebellion in Ohio history. The editor of the Plain Dealer spoke for many when he wrote, "Much credit for keeping the death toll at a minimum goes directly to Governor George Voinovich." But the unsung heroes are the faithful Christians in all walks of life, who supported the governor with their prayers. These invisible warriors are on the front lines in the spiritual battle that wages at all times and in all countries. One day, God is going to roll back the curtain on history, and my guess is we'll be astonished to see who the real heroes are. Not the famous people, not the Christian celebrities, but the men and women who faithfully obeyed the command to pray. Today, on the National Day of Prayer, let's remember that victories like the one in Ohio don't happen by themselves. They happen when Christians get on their knees and pray for their leaders.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary