Praying for prisoners

Christians are commanded to promote the welfare of everyone, including those who are in prison.

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.  (Hebrews 13:3)

Some think this command merely says we are to be concerned about prisoners in general and need to pray for them and enable them to hear the gospel.  There are many Christian organizations dedicated to reaching prisoners with the gospel.  Perhaps the best known of these is  Prison Fellowship.  This is certainly a legitimate application of this verse, but I don’t think it is what the author of Hebrews had in mind.  When the New Testament was being written Christians often faced severe persecution and many were in prison because of their faith.  This statement is a reminder not to forget them.

In many parts of the world today Christians don’t experience the kind of persecution which leads to imprisonment so we often neglect this responsibility, but in there are places where the risk of imprisonment is a problem.  We must support these prisoners by praying for them.  Our first impulse is usually to pray for their release but this might not be the only thing God wants us to ask for.  Here is what Jesus said to the twelve apostles when he sent them out to preach.

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  (Matthew 10:16-20)

When God allows his followers to be imprisoned he does so to give them an opportunity for service that they would not have had otherwise.  Paul testified that this was the result of his imprisonment.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  (Philippians 1:12-14)

You probably know how Naaman was cleansed of leprosy by Elisha, but did you notice how he heard about Elisha in the first place?

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife.She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”  (2 Kings 5:1-3)

God allowed this girl to become a slave so he could use her to bring healing and salvation to a Syrian general.  I sometimes wonder if he rewarded her for this by freeing her.

Naaman’s slave

There are examples outside of the Bible of people being imprisoned so they can tell the gospel to others.  Some of you might have read the book The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom.  Corrie lived in Holland when it was occupied by the Nazis during World War II.  Corrie was involved with the Dutch underground in helping Jews to escape from the country.  The Nazis arrested her and sentenced her to the Ravensbruck concentration camp.  She managed to smuggle a Bible into the camp and conducted Bible studies for the other prisoners.  While the Nazis were bringing death to the inmates God was using Corrie and the other Christians to bring life.

When someone is in prison for Christ we should pray for his release but we should also pray that he will accomplish the work for which God allowed him to be imprisoned.  Acts 12 tells how a prisoner was freed in response to the prayers of the church.  Herod had Peter put in prison and intended to execute him.  The church prayed for him and the night before his execution was scheduled God answered their prayer.  When he went to where they were gathered in prayer they found it hard to believe it was really him.  I find their response encouraging because it show that God will answer our prayers even if our faith is weak.  While they only prayed for Peter’s release it is quite possible that God had some work for Peter to do while he was in prison.  The guards

If you want to pray for those in prison you can find helpful information here:  PRAYER UPDATES

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Posted on October 4, 2018, in Bible study, prayer and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Praying for prisoners.

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