As we turn our calendars to a new year, we instinctively make plans to give attention to what matters. One of the things that matter to me is the church behind bars. I would like to begin this next year with a prayer focus for those Christian men and women who are incarcerated. Here are 5 ways in that I will be praying and I would like to encourage you to join me and pray as well.
Pray for a Hunger for the Bible.
If the goal of the church is Christlikeness, then the diet for the church must be the Bible. After all, it is the Bible that God uses to make the child of God more like the Son of God (John 17:17). Therefore, we can pray that the church would be filled with people who hunger for hearing from God in their private devotions, chapel services, and conversations with other believers. Imagine the impact of a church inside of prison full of people who wake up eager to open the Bible each morning to discover anew the truth of God’s character and conquests. Imagine hearts so overflowing with the Bible that their conversations, letters to their families and meditations just drip with the Scriptures. Pray that God will give them an abiding delight for the Word.
Pray for Thankfulness.
The Apostle Paul identifies being unthankful as a footprint of unbelief (Rom. 1:21) while noting thankfulness as a mark of a believer (Col. 3:15–17). One way that we can be praying for the church inside of prison is to plead with God that they would be thankful. My prayer is that the church inside of prison be enveloped by a real joy in God because of what He has done for us in Christ. May God’s worth and work captivate the hearts, minds, and wills of the church inside of prison so that regardless of their circumstances they know for a fact that God is for them in Christ.
Pray for Gospel Growth.
The gospel is intended to advance. Jesus commissioned His disciples as missionaries (Matt. 28:19–21) and churches have been advancing the gospel ever since. This advancement of the Gospel does not exclude the church inside of prison but will not happen if the church is full of people unmoved by the gospel. The truth of the gospel must get down deep into the marrow of their beings, their very souls. It is a truth that must color every thought, action, and reaction. As these men grow in their understanding of the gospel (and its implications), they will find themselves growing in knowledge and application of the Bible. To grow in the gospel is to have one’s identity, mission, security, and hopes all built on what Christ has done. A church that is growing in the gospel is filled with people who are joyfully loving, serving, and sacrificing for one another as they demonstrate the gospel. They are also tactfully, winsomely, and zealously declaring the gospel to each other. Pray that God will strengthen them in the gospel. Draw them deeply into the glory of Christ. Make them more and more impressed with Him this very day. Cause them to grow in the gospel and walk in a manner worthy of it.
Pray for Holiness.
The Apostle Peter exhorts us to be holy because God Himself is holy (1 Peter 1:15–16). Before the church is anything else, she is set apart to holiness. Walking in holiness is a challenge for many inside of prison because they live in the midst of a community that is not holy. Because of this, we need to continually pray for our incarcerated brothers and sisters that they would be a holy people. Pray that God would strengthen their commitment and endurance to strive daily after holiness in their lives.
Pray for Unity.
The gospel brings people together. What’s more, it brings sinful people with various backgrounds together. The gospel takes selfish people and causes them to love one another. However, we know from reading the New Testament and from experience that selfishness constantly attempts to overthrow unity and the church inside of prison is not exempt from this. In Eph. 4:2, we are told to preserve unity by walking in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. This is a humble, gentle, enduring, and loving walk. It tends toward preserving unity rather than fracturing it. As long as selfishness exists, we must find ourselves praying for unity. I want to encourage you to join with me as I pray for believers to walk this gospel walk, leaving footprints of humility. Pray that the Church inside of prison would be united in and through the Trinity so that they might be united together, as a church, in love.