Praying for Prisoners

Today, we’re praying for one of the last issues I would have come up with on my own, but the Lord has laid it on my heart in an undeniable way. You may have seen some of the news articles, like this one, regarding the horrible treatment of prisoners in the Alabama prison system. It’s easy to shrug our shoulders and say, “So? They’re in there because they deserve to be. They did the crime, they do the time, whatever that looks like.” I’m guilty of forgetting that those prisoners are still human beings whom God has compassion on and desires to reconcile them to Himself. Breaking the law, even in the most heinous ways, does not remove a person from the reaches of God’s grace. It also does not make it okay for that person to be mistreated and abused by anyone. Breaking the law also does not justify someone else breaking the law in their treatment of that person.

Some of you may be struggling with what I just said. You may think I would feel differently if I had been the victim of a criminal act. Well, I have, in significant ways, and I know the frustration and pain of not seeing justice done. I have also had family members who were involved in crime and have spent time in jail (albeit not in the state prison system). My husband is a Birmingham police officer. I’m in a unique position of having experienced the criminal justice system from several different angles, and I have run the gamut of emotions and opinions on it. But I’ve learned I need to seek the Lord’s heart about these things. It’s possible to desire justice and have compassion at the same time. It’s very hard, at times, but it is possible. We must seek the Lord.

While I was praying about doing this blog post, my children and I went to Vulcan Park and Museum. In the museum, we read about how the prisoners were treated so horribly as they were forced to do labor in the furnaces. Many of them were beaten and killed; all of them were pushed beyond humane limits. Many of them were not hardened criminals, but were serving time for petty crimes, and still they were treated as though they were less than human. It made me realize that what is happening in the state prison system is a generational issue that has been around at least since the early days of the metro-B’ham area. We must pray.

Luke 4:18-19 – “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.”

Lord Jesus, praise Your name! You are Sovereign Lord, full of grace and compassion, who died for us while we were yet sinners. Justice and compassion are Yours, the One who experienced the grossest miscarriage of justice as You, who are holy, were condemned for all our sins, and who found no compassion among the crowd crying out for Your death. You know and understand what injustice and lack of compassion feels like. You give us the power by Your Spirit to have compassion even on the worst of people. You enable us to forgive those who sin against us, just as you forgave the very soldiers who crucified You.

We thank You that You can set the captives free, and that we are some of those very captives whom You have freed. We pray for every man and woman in the Alabama prison system right now to be set free by the power of the Gospel – not necessarily physically free, but set their spirits free. This includes not just those who are serving time, but also for the men and women working in the jails. Jesus, we pray that You would give those in authority over the prisoners a heart of compassion. Set them free from bitterness and hate. Remove any unrighteous leadership over the prison system, and raise up God-fearing, Christ-like leadership who can bring the necessary reform to the system.

We pray that the oppression against these prisoners would cease, and that instead of thinking of criminals as less than human, and deserving of whatever mistreatment they endure, that You would change our heart and remind us that if it were not for the grace of God, any of us could find ourselves in the same situation. Give us Your righteous indignation and help us to do whatever You call us to do to speak out against what is happening in our prisons. We confess that we have chosen ignorance and blindness to these issues. Forgive us, and restore our sight. Let us see the situation with Your eyes and Your heart.

In Your name, Lord Jesus Christ, we tear down the generational stronghold of hate and oppression that has existed in this prison system since nearly its inception. Thank You, Lord, that the injustices of abuse and extortion are coming to light, because that is a sign that You are already working. We pray that Satan would no longer be allowed to prevail against these prisoners and against the corrections officers/guards. Instead, we pray that God’s kingdom would come, and that His will would be done in every single prison in this state as it already is in Heaven. Lord, I confess that even as I pray that, my mind and flesh are trying to speak against it – trying to convince me that is an impossible request. Thank You, Lord God, that with You nothing is impossible. We can see our prisons become places of redemption, hope and light, in Jesus’ name.

We pray all of this in the matchless name of Jesus Christ, amen.

If you’re like me, this isn’t a subject you often pray about. Is there something the Lord is laying on your heart to pray, or is there something I prayed that either bears witness with you or that you’re struggling with? I would love to hear from you either way.

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