Jane Bidder, who also writes novels under the name Sophie King, is writer in residence of HM Prison Spring Hill and HM Prison Grendon. She has compiled The Book of Uncommon Prayer, a collection of prayers by prisoners and staff there.
She writes in her introduction to the book: “They say that when men go into prison, they find either the gym or God. When I first arrived as writer in residence of HM Prison Spring Hill, I was slightly bemused (and confused) to find that this was indeed true.
“Religion has always been part of my own life although I have, I am afraid, dipped in and out at times. I soon found that it was the same for the men. Some were not particularly religious before they came to prison, but found great comfort in the Spring Hill chaplaincy and also the chapel in the adjoining HM Prison Grendon, which is like an unexpected oasis off the corridor towards F wing.
“One day, completely out of the blue as I was pacing the Grendon ‘M6’ corridor while reading one of my men’s life stories, an idea came to me. Why not ask my students and also anyone else inside, to write an individual, personal prayer? If they didn’t have a religion, it could be a private reflection: a saying perhaps that was helping to get them through their time inside and also come to terms with their crimes. . .
“I was pleasantly surprised. Lots of men wanted to write me something.”
Thank you Lord for letting me see
That through believing
I could, in your name, be free.
Thank you Lord, for healing my mind and body
For taking my anxieties and addictions
That pained me for so long.
Thank you Lord, for being there Day and Night
To comfort me in testing times
To guide me and teach me your ways.
Thank you Lord for setting me free
For renewing my mind
And accepting me.
Thank you Lord for your mighty name
That promises my future
To be full of peace, love and joy.
Thank you Lord, I will say everyday
For lifting me up and strengthening me.
I may be in prison but you broke my chains
So I will say once again,
Thank you Lord. Amen.
Eddie is Church of England.
Who would I pray for
If someone was there?
I’d pray for my loved ones
And all those who care.
I’d pray for the people
Who I stole from with pain
And ask for forgiveness —
Am I pleading in vain?
I’d pray for my children
Who are left with no Dad
I didn’t mean to be thoughtless
Or make them feel sad.
I’d pray for my liberty
The chance to walk free.
To vanquish old demons
And the selfish old me.
(Thanks to Andy for his help in writing this)
Keith is Church of England but hasn’t been to church for some years.
This is the first of two extracts from The Book of Uncommon Prayer. The book is available for £4.99 plus £2.99 postage (£7.98) from Jane Bidder, Education, Springhill, Grendon Underwood, Bucks HP18 0TL. Cheques should be made payable to Friends of Grendon and sent with a return address.