Free the Prisoners
By Maria Fontaine
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There is a group of people who are found in every country of the world. Most come from the poorer parts of society, but those who end up in this group can come from the middle class on up to the most elite. Their lives have in most cases turned into a living hell on earth, but even in the often brutal, life-and-death circumstances they are forced to live in, there is great potential for God’s light to shine in their darkness.
People are prisoners of sin until their bonds have been broken by Jesus through His blood. But there are some in the world who are not only prisoners of sin but of actual physical prison walls, bars, and razor wire. Whether or not you feel personally called to the often-challenging task of visiting or writing to those who are imprisoned, you can still do something very important if you will commit to pray for those who are incarcerated who need Jesus so desperately. Many formerly unreachable, hardened prisoners, who have been supernaturally transformed by Jesus’ light and love, attribute much of the miracle that happened in their lives to Christians who were interceding in prayer for them.
Whether these inmates have actually committed crimes or whether they are imprisoned unjustly, their lives often become overtaken by bitterness, anger, loneliness, fear, remorse, depression, and other destructive emotions. Those who are given over to evil frequently prey on other prisoners, brutalizing and demoralizing them, often leaving them without hope of rescue or sometimes even much hope of survival.
I’ve had a special place in my heart for prisoners since I was young. My aunt sometimes visited prisons with a group from her church. She met a man who had been saved there and she suggested to me that he would be encouraged if I would write him on a regular basis. I did so. My heart went out to him and to the many others worldwide who were incarcerated. That was my first exposure to a prisoner, albeit by long distance. I never met the man I’d written to, but I was able to encourage him spiritually.
With the prison ministry, like some other ministries, it is often slow going. There are many challenges and security issues involved in trying to get through the red tape required to get inside those physical walls. And there are often many barriers of hardness, bitterness, fear, depression, and hopelessness to overcome in the prisoners themselves. But if the Lord puts the burden on your heart, He will open the doors wide as you persevere, and it can be a very fulfilling ministry where the Lord can use you greatly to change lives little by little.
There are an estimated eleven million people being confined in prisons around the world.1 These people are a segment of society that for the most part has almost no one to help them, no one who cares if they live or die. While a portion of them are violent criminals, another substantial portion are there for nonviolent offenses. There are also likely a number who have been incarcerated who are innocent of any crimes. In many places their “crimes” might be not agreeing with those in power, engaging in anti-government demonstrations, or being a part of a religious minority. In some countries, even ones regarded as first world countries,2 many people spend years or even decades in prison without ever being charged with a crime.
This is just a glimpse into this broad subject of prisons. There is such a desperate spiritual need for hope and the Lord’s Spirit and Word. We can’t set the prisoners free in the physical, but we can help to liberate their spirits to create a connection to God, who loves them and wants to make them a part of His kingdom.
Jesus made it His mission to free us. We can help to set other captives free by helping them become citizens of His kingdom.
Most societies don’t offer much opportunity for released prisoners to truly redeem themselves and become productive members of society. The social stigma makes it difficult even for those who are skilled to find work or rebuild their lives. They need faith and hope and the Lord’s strength to help them persevere and overcome the many challenges they face due to their imprisonment.
Many former prisoners don’t have any place to go once they’re released. Sadly, many go back to lives of crime, violence, drugs, etc., and their lives continue their downward spiral. Without something greater than this world to look to, most lack the motivation to overcome the negative currents of their past. But as Christians, we have the opportunity to make a difference. As we do what we can to help them find faith in Jesus, His Word and His love can help them to overcome this vicious cycle and find true newness of life.
It can be a very cold and cruel world that man’s sins and inhumanity to man has created, but as the Bible says, where iniquity abounds, grace does much more abound.3 One of the reasons Jesus has us on this earth is to do what we can to fulfill the task He began, “to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”4
Jesus said, “I was in prison and you visited me.”5 We can “visit Jesus” in the prisons of the world through our prayers for so many who have no hope, no love, and no light in their lives. I ask you to please pray that God will bring His light and life into the hearts of those who are in bondage. Please ask Jesus to do something to connect them with Him, to change things and to give them hope and a way to come to know that in spite of everything, they are truly and unconditionally loved by Him.
“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”6
Originally published April 2014. Adapted and republished May 2019.
Read by Irene Quiti Vera.
3 Romans 5:20.
4 Luke 4:18.
5 Matthew 25:36.
6 Hebrews 13:3 NIV.