Why Prisons Week is not just a nice thing to do…
For over forty years, Prisons Week has catalysed prayer for people affected by imprisonment—from people in prison, to their loved ones, to victims of crime and those working in the criminal justice system. But why should we bother praying for them? We have countless things to pray for; our own friends and family, our local church, the cost-of-living crisis, the environment… the list goes on. Why should we add to it? Particularly when we would
be spending time praying for people who have been convicted of wrongdoing and are deserving of punishment.
Here is why we think this is important:
REASON #1: JESUS TELLS US TO
Read Matthew 25:40–43. Jesus rebukes the righteous saying: ‘I was ill and in prison and you did not look after me.’ Jesus equates our care for people in prison to care for Him. Notice that Jesus does not vilify people in prison. Rather, He has strong words for those of us who call on His Name but do not care for those in prison. Even those of us who cannot go into prison ourselves can pray. And our prayers can have a big impact.
REASON #2: IT IS PART OF THE MINISTRY OF JESUS
This call to support people in prison fits into Jesus’ ministry. He teaches us the importance of compassion, mercy and love for all people, regardless of their circumstances. If anything, Jesus prefers those who are shunned by society, choosing to spend His time with ‘sinners’ over teachers of the law. Just as Jesus showed compassion by coming alongside people who are disregarded by society, we can do likewise by praying for and supporting people in prison.
Many people in prison have faced significant disadvantages: poverty, social exclusion, addictions, they are refugees, people who have been bullied, trafficked or abused, children without functioning homes, those lacking education, people in housing crisis. Some of the most disadvantaged members of our society are found behind prison bars. Praying for them demonstrates our concern for their wellbeing and acknowledges their inherent dignity as humans.
REASON #3: PRAYER IS POWERFUL
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s, is well known for saying, ‘When I pray, coincidences happen.’ We do not simply pray for people in prison because it is a good thing to do, but because we believe it impacts lives! Nearly everyone in prison will be released into the community one day. The question is, how do we want those people to return to our society? Do we want them to return as they were, or do we want them to return as restored people, ready to contribute positively to society? Your prayers can help that journey of transformation.
I hope you can see why we are so passionate about praying for people in prison. After all, when Prison Fellowship was founded, we did not go into prisons. For the first four years, we simply prayed!
This article was first published in our quarterly magazine in:sight. You can sign up to receive our free magazine by post or via email by visiting prisonfellowship.org.uk/subscribe
Find out more about Prisons Week HERE.