Praying for Alabama Justice Ministries Network

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.

Praying for Ministry Ventures – A Ministry to Ministries

It’s one thing to have a God-given passion and calling to start up a nonprofit organization. But to figure out how to get it established, how to advertise, how to find your target audience, how to build accountability and an effective board, how to raise  money and/or apply for grants, etc, all while making sure you don’t lose your focus and priority on the One who called you into this adventure in the first place can be overwhelming, to say the least. That is why Ministry Ventures exists. Founded in 1999 by Boyd Bailey, their calling is “Empowering ministries to thrive”. They provide training and coaching around five key areas that help enable ministries to become sustainable organizations. Known as the Five Best Practices, they are: Ministry Model, Fundraising, Board Development, Administration, and Prayer. They are based in Alpharetta, GA, but their National Partnership Director, Mike Flink is based here in Birmingham, and he has worked with nonprofits in our area for a while now.

Psalm 20
1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
2 May He send you help from the sanctuary and support you from Zion!
3 May He remember all your meal offerings and find your burnt offering acceptable! Selah.
4 May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your counsel!
5 We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
6 Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.
7 Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.
8 They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright.
9 Save, O LORD; may the King answer us in the day we call.

Lord God, You are faithful and true and merciful over all You have made (Ps. 145:9). You are mighty, all-powerful, and Your strength never fails. You do not abandon us when You call us to step out in faith. As we walk on the water, You are always on the water with us. You send us help when we call on You. You set us securely on high. Lord, we thank You and praise Your name!

We thank You for raising up an organization like Ministry Ventures, to help other ministries and nonprofits become all that You called them to be. Thank You for their record of integrity and for the various experiences You’ve given Boyd Bailey and each of the team members that they can use to help other ministries. We pray that You would give this ministry their hearts’ desire to empower nonprofits to become sustainable ministries that have the tools and knowledge to advance the Kingdom of God in their communities with integrity. We pray that You would “fulfill all (their) counsel” (v.4) through their “Five Best Practices” training so that it would even become an industry standard for nonprofits.

We specifically pray for Boyd and those who help lead this organization. Not just in relation to their ministry, but also in their personal lives, we pray that they would see Your victory. Let them boast in the name of the Lord our God. When the enemy comes against them, set them securely on high, Lord. I’ve seen enough glimpses into the world of ministry leadership that I know it can at times be extremely difficult. Even in those times, Lord, let them keep their eyes on You. Hear and answer them when they call on You, we pray. Let Your steadfast love be their shield and strength.

Lord, we also pray for the ministries here in Birmingham that Ministry Ventures has been helping. Show Yourself strong on their behalf. Encourage and strengthen the leadership and the team members of those ministries. Let them look to You and boast in You alone. God, the enemy is a roaring lion, and I know of ministries that are under attack simply for doing what You’ve called them to do, and some that are struggling with not enough resources, and others who seem to have lost their vision. We plead the blood of Jesus over them and ask You to be their Defense, their Jehoveh Jireh, their Vision. Send them help when they call on You. Cause Your Church to come along-side these ministries to partner with them and to be a source of Your provision and help. Lord, bless the sacrifices these men and women have made in order to pursue Your will for them and for the communities they serve.

We boast in You alone, O God, for to You belongs the Kingdom, all the power, and all the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Praying for Christian Service Mission

This week we are praying for Christian Service Mission. It was founded in 1971 by a man named Johnny Lynch. From the 1980s through 2000, CSM operated Food Source, which networked resources and distributed food every month to 60,000 families across 6 states. In 2006-2009, the ministry went through some organizational and leadership changes and refocused its purpose and ministry. Today, under the leadership of the executive director Tracy Hipps, Christian Service Mission uses an asset-based community development strategy. (You should take a look at that link. I found the explanation and model quite fascinating.) Through relationships with local churches and ministries, they bring together people and resources to change the lives of those in need, using their 80,000 sq. ft. warehouse as a tool in their strategy.

I had the privilege of praying with a small group of intercessors through their facilities just as Tracy Hipps came on as the executive director. It was a powerful time together. That warehouse is impressive. The Lord has used Tracy and his team to do amazing things in our city for the underserved in the last few years. You can sign up to receive their e-newsletter on their website. I’m continually encouraged and impressed with all that this ministry is doing to serve our city.

We’re going to use the Lord’s Prayer as it’s found in Matthew 6:9-13 to help us pray for Christian Services Mission today:
‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

Heavenly Father, there is no one like You. You reign in utter glory and splendor over all of Creation, yet You were so determined to have a relationship with us that You sent Your Son to die for us. You bring salvation by Your own hand, and You uphold it with Your own righteousness. (Is. 59:16) Your purpose cannot be thwarted. (Job 42:2) We give You all the honor, glory, blessing, and praise, because You alone are worthy of it.

We thank You for Christian Service Mission, and their commitment to work to see Your kingdom come in this city. Thank You for the resources You have given them and for the relationships You’ve allowed them to build between communities of resource and communities of need. We pray that You would continue to keep their eyes on You and the vision and mission You have called them to. We pray for unity among their leadership team, their staff, and their volunteers. Empower them to continue to be faithful ambassadors of Your kingdom in our city.

Use them to accomplish Your will for both the communities of resource and of need. We pray that You would protect them from becoming distracted with ideas or goals that are only man-made, and not part of Your will for their ministry, as we are all so prone to do at times. Thank You that Your plan is not to leave these communities in poverty, and that You have called the Church to be Your hands and feet to the least of these. We pray not only for CSM, but also that the Church here in Birmingham would rise up in humility and unity to answer Your call to be a light in the dark places. Use us, Lord, to intercede, to serve, to give, to submit to Your will for us and for our city.

We pray that You would continue to provide CSM with the resources they need to accomplish Your will. Thank You for the huge warehouse You have provided for them. Raise up more partners, more resources, more opportunities. Thank You that we do not have to strive and worry about anything we need, because You are our Faithful Father who loves to give us what we need even before we ask. Because a huge part of their mission is about relationships, we pray for the health of these relationships. Let forgiveness flow freely, and give Tracy and his team humility, discernment, and wisdom to navigate through conflict. We also pray that You would strengthen them and encourage them. Help them to stand firm against the schemes of the evil one. Cover them under Your wings. Be their Strong Tower. Do not let them stumble into any snare of the enemy.

We thank You for hearing our prayers, and we give You all the honor and glory for who You are and what You are doing and for what You will do. In the days we live in, we shout, “Hallelujah!”, to the One who has established His kingdom and His purpose for eternity. Amen.