Almost a year ago I wrote a post about praying for those who are in our prison systems. It’s one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written, surprisingly. Even briefly reading through the comments on any news story involving crime reflects such animosity towards those involved in criminal activity as to forget they are fellow human beings. Yes, it is important they be held accountable for their actions, but it is possible to pursue justice with compassion. If we, as believers, are praying that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, and we know that the Bible tells us that He desires none to perish, then for us the goal of seeing a criminal incarcerated should be to bring about their restoration as a contributing member of society and to see them transformed by the Gospel.
I confess that I don’t often pray for those in jail. I think it would serve our city well if we all added them to our prayer lists, though. We read how crime is high, repetitive crime is a problem, and our prisons are overcrowded. We know that they only solution is for hearts to be changed, and that only happens through the Holy Spirit as He moves in response to the prayers He calls us to pray. Thankfully, there is a whole network of ministries who not only pray, but also go into the prisons and “proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” (Is. 61:1)
The Alabama Justice Ministries Network was founded in July 2001. Their mission is to bring about cooperation among ministries for the purpose of effectively spreading the message of God’s saving grace to those affected by crime. One of their main goals is to provide the necessary services to assist ex-offenders to best gain and retain employment opportunities. The services include mentoring, educational and vocational training, life skills programming, housing, and continued substance abuse treatment. The AJMN partners with over 80 local churches and over 400 volunteers in the various ministries and organizations. AJMN also administers the Jefferson County Jail Ministry, the Jefferson County Community Partnership for Recovery and Reentry Network and the Robert E. Doyle: Mentoring Birmingham Program. Donna Doyle is the organization’s director.
Psalm 25:8-11 – 8 Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in justice,
And He teaches the humble His way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth
To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
Lord God, You are uncompromising in Your goodness and righteousness. Yet, You are gracious and merciful to us when we are so woefully short of it. We have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory. The only way reason there is any goodness in us is because we have been justified as a gift by Your grace through redemption in Jesus Christ. (Rom. 3:23-24) We are SO thankful and humbled that You have saved us while we were yet sinners. It makes us shout hallelujah!!!
We lift up the men, women, and children who are in our criminal justice system, whether they are criminals, family, or victims of crime, and ask that Your will would be done in each of their lives. We pray that You would set them on paths of righteousness of Your name’s sake (Ps. 23:3). Reveal Your compassion and truth to those who have been led astray by their own sinful choices, and to those who have been deeply wounded by others’ sinful choices. We pray that Your justice and Your compassion would be meted out in equal measure according to Your righteous will. Protect these individuals from the hate and judgment that is spewed on them from those who consider themselves better than them. God, forgive us – Your children – for thinking we are better than them. Help us to see them through Your eyes.
We thank You for raising up the Alabama Justice Ministries Network, and for the unity they have developed among the churches and organizations who are leading the way in ministering the Gospel to those in prison, and then helping them become healthy individuals again. We pray that You would continue to increase the spirit of unity and humility among these ministries as they work together. Continue to teach them Your ways of justice. Keep their eyes focused on You. Let them see Your lovingkindness and truth on display in their personal lives and in the lives of those they minister to. We pray that You would protect them and encourage them. I know they see great victories, but I’m sure they also see great heartache. Father, sing Your song of deliverance over them and over their clients. Give them times of rest for their soul. Lead them beside still waters and restore their soul, especially when the battle gets particularly intense. We pray that You would give Donna Doyle and her leadership team wisdom, discernment, and guidance to accomplish what You have called them to accomplish. Give them grace when the journey gets hard. Give them grace to trust only You even when it feels easy. We also ask for increase – more churches, more of Your people answering the call to preach liberty to the captives. For Your glory. Amen.