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.

Praying for Pelham, Alabama

I have been looking forward to this one for a while now, because my family and I live in Pelham! I love this city and the sense of community that exists here. The city has enjoyed lots of progress over the last few years, thanks to wise leadership and the Lord’s blessing.

www.pelhamonline.com

Mayor Gary W. Waters

Shelby County

Incorporated in 1964

  • First known as Shelbyville in 1818, when the county court was established in what is now Pelham
  • County seat from 1820 until 1826
  • Sometime after the Civil War, it was renamed Pelham in honor of Major John Pelham, who fought in over 60 battles in the Civil War and was killed in the Battle of Kelly’s Ford in 1863.
  • In the early 1960’s, the city of Alabaster tried to annex Pelham, which led to the citizens of Pelham seeking to become incorporated.

Well, this verse is different from the type we normally pray from, and this is another one of those times where I’m thinking, “Huh? How are we supposed to pray from that?” So here goes….

**Also, because this is my city, my use of pronouns is more first person. I tried to stop it, but it kept happening, so I just rolled with it.**

Song of Solomon 3:2 – “I must arise now and go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I must seek him who my soul loves. I sought him but did not find him.”

Beloved One, we love You and adore You. You are altogether beautiful in the splendor of Your holiness. Your glory is unassailable. You invite us to share in Your glory for Your name’s sake. You invited us to sit with You in the heavenly places so that You may show the riches of Your love in kindness toward us. (from Eph. 1) What can we do in response but to fall down and worship You?

Lord Jesus, You have established nations and cities to share and to reflect Your glory. So we pray that You would enable Pelham, Alabama to do just that. We pray that the citizens of this city would recognize You as the One whom their soul was created to love. Give them a passion and desire to seek You. Remove the blinders that are on our eyes that hide You from us, or distort what You really look like and who You really are. Cause us to lay down the things which keep us from You, Lord Jesus. Turn our eyes from looking at vain, empty things, and let us look full in Your wonderful face. May this city be known as a city that seeks after You in all that it does.

Unlike the verse in Song of Solomon who could not find who she was looking for, we thank You that You can be found. Jer. 29:13 says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Let the city of Pelham, and the people of Pelham, find You. Cause us to seek You with all our hearts. Thank You for the promise of Your Word and that we can always trust in it.

Lord, we lift up Mayor Gary Waters to you. Grant him a passion for You that directs every decision he makes for our city and even for his personal life. Protect him from the evil one. Deliver him from temptation and the plans of the enemy. Set Mayor Waters’ feet on the firm foundation of Your Word. Let him know that You are with him and will direct his steps when he seeks after You. We pray for grace and truth to permeate everything he says and does. We pray that Mayor Waters and the city council would enjoy a healthy working relationship, and that together they would seek Your will for our city.

I also pray for the civil servants of Pelham. Protect them. Keep their hearts from becoming embittered by the difficult things they have to see and do. As they go through “in the streets and in the squares” of this city, let them find You. Please let their minds be renewed and refreshed through the power of Your Word and Your Spirit.

We pray all of these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

How are you feeling led to pray? I pray each of you would seek Jesus today, and that He would be found by you.

 

 

 

Birmingham from the Mountain

Birmingham from Vulcan

My family and I visited Vulcan Park last Monday. While I’m not crazy about a huge statue of a false god looking over the city, I absolutely LOVE the view from up there, and reading about the elements that God blessed the metro-B’ham area with and how the steel industry shaped this city and surrounding areas.

As I stood at the railing, looking at the magnificent views, I felt an ache of longing in my heart. The city looks so beautiful from that vantage point. The sun bright and the sky was a brilliant blue that day we were there, and the city shone like a jewel. It made me ache for the future, when Birmingham becomes “the city of Jesus’ dreams”, as Paul Hughes of Birmingham Prayer Furnace always talks about.

Then the Lord gave me His perspective, which made me ache with grief. When He looks at Birmingham, He can see the least and the lost in the streets. He sees the poor and homeless, who have created their own little community among the city’s abandoned buildings. He sees the abused and neglected, who are almost completely devoid of hope. He sees the broken homes, and the children who need a mom AND a dad. He sees the drugs, the human trafficking and other crime. He sees the corruption, the pride, arrogance, and self-serving attitudes. And it breaks His heart.

So what hope do we have that this city will ever become the city of Jesus’ dreams? We have the best hope of all – Jesus Himself. When God looks at this city, He also sees the shed blood of His Son, covering the land. He sees the prayers of His people rising like incense before His very throne. He sees His Bride, the Church in Birmingham, starting to wake from her slumber and become the Bride He has been waiting for. He sees how He will cause all things to work together for our good and His glory by redeeming everything the enemy meant for evil. Hallelujah!!

So join me in praying for those real needs in our cities, and rejoice with me that the God of this city – the One True God and not a false statue of a god – sees us and has redeemed us by the blood of Christ.

Alabaster – Shine Your light

Alabaster is a city in Shelby County, AL. As of July 2009, it had 29, 681 residents. Their mayor is Marty Handlon. Alabaster was founded in 1925 and was named after the natural mineral that was mined there. It was incorporated on Feb. 23, 1953. Like Adamsville, for whom we prayed on Friday, its tornado and earthquake activity is also higher than the state average.

The passage I believe the Lord led me to for Alabaster is Ephesians 5:13-17 – “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Lord God, You are exalted high above the heavens. Not even the highest heavens can contain You. You are the light of the world. The darkness tries to flee from Your presence, but there is no hiding place from You. Your presence, Your glory, and Your power are ever present, and Your truth abides forever.

Father, we ask that the Church in Alabaster would hear Your call and would awaken to the new thing You are doing in their midst. I know a couple of pastors from some of the churches in Alabaster, and I know their heart for You and their desire to be the Bride of Christ, prepared for her Bridegroom. Remove those things which are hindering them from being the Bride You’ve called them to be. Get them out of the place of complacency and into a place of utter dependence on You. Cause them to diligently seek You with their whole hearts. May the prayers of the saints rise up from Alabaster as a sweet-smelling offering of incense to you. Be their vision and provision, and keep them in the center of Your Word and Your will.

Shine Your light on Your people and on this city. May the people of Alabaster behold Your glory and majesty. Let them behold Your marvelous works, and let it be a sign to them that points to salvation. Give the people discernment to recognize evil and good – to avoid the traps and pitfalls the enemy has laid for them, and to seek after peace and pursue it.

Thank You that Your will is not hidden from those who diligently seek You. We pray that Mayor Handlon and the city council would seek Your will. Give them a spirit of understanding and wisdom so that they would understand Your will as You reveal it to them. We ask all these things in the name of Jesus, the Light of the World. Amen.

Please respond with anything the Lord lays on your heart in the comments.

Praying for Adamsville

First, let me say thank you for making our launch day on Monday such a success with all your visits! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like our page on Facebook to stay connected between posts.

We are starting our virtual prayer journey through the metro-B’ham area in Adamsville, which is in the north-westernmost corner of the metro-B’ham area. It is 10 miles NW of the city of Birmingham, center to center. It was named for a man whose house was used as a temporary railroad depot, according to www.epodunk.com. The city has a little less than 5,000 residents. The mayor of Adamsville is Pam Palmer.

The verse the Lord led me to for this city is Psalm 127:1-2 – “Unless the LORD (Yahweh) builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”

Father, we praise You because You are Yahweh – the One True God, the Great I AM. You are Sovereign and You have a plan and a purpose for Adamsville. We submit this city to Your will and we ask that You would fulfill Your will in Adamsville as it already is in Heaven. Thank You for establishing this city. I know the mayor and the city council have worked hard to make Adamsville a pleasant place to live, and we pray that they would acknowledge You as the One who has built their city, so that their labor would not be in vain, but would be in cooperation with Your plan. Give them Your wisdom and let them find You when they seek Your face for guidance.

We pray that You would guard Adamsville; that You would set Your angels around the city to watch over it. Put Your name, Yahweh, on Adamsville, so that the police and first responders do not keep watch in vain. Grant them success on every side as they stand between the citizens and the evil that seeks to bring harm and destruction. Please protect those who guard the city.

For the citizens of Adamsville, we pray that they would acknowledge You in all their ways, so that You would direct their paths. (Prov. 3:6) Let their labors not be in vain, but bless their efforts to provide for themselves and their families. Bring jobs to those who are unemployed. And we pray that they would find rest in You, and that they would know they are Your beloved. We pray all these things in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

There is so much more that could and should be prayed for over Adamsville. How is the Lord leading you to pray for this city?