Jonathan Aitken, Petworth Area Churches Together – November 2013

ON 8 JUNE 1999, DISGRACED FORMER CABINET MINISTER JONATHAN AITKEN WAS WRESTLING WITH HIS SELF-INFLICTED AGONIES OF DEFEAT, DISGRACE, DIVORCE, BANKRUPTCY AND JAIL. His first night in Belmarsh Jail, a” tough nick” , rang with menacing threats and insults as to what his fellow prisoners would do to this “Tory toff” in the morning. Really scared, he knelt down and said a prayer, asking himself how on earth he had got into this mess.

At best he was a “Sunday Christian” – a half Christian. The idea of a relationship with Jesus was not on his agenda. Having identified the fault line, he sought the right spiritual path and suddenly realised a committed path was necessary. He began praying the psalms and found that Psalm 130 “spoke” to him: “Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord.”

Through the unlikely help of Paddy, an Irish burglar, a prayer group was formed in his cell and they met with the real hero.

Jonathan said that the power of transformation is strong and a prayer for the gift of forgiveness is vital as many bury pain. He finished with three other vital “P”s: praying, power and peace. Praying is just sharing this and other things with God. The power of the Holy Spirit changes their lives and through this we find peace. Wonderfully, the men in his cell settled down, forgetting their anger and bitterness.

Jonathan’s practical and invigorating message that God is both accessible & personal came over so strongly. We thought it was a brilliant evening; 260 people attended and we sent £400 to Jonathan’s Christian prison reform work.

Gerald Gresham Cooke on behalf of Petworth Area Churches Together

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