Thinking about the overcrowded prisons in South Africa, can leave us at a loss as to what to pray and how to pray. Those involved in an in-prison ministry, know that prisoners have countless prayer needs. They are always desperate for prayer for themselves, their families, as well as their future re-entry back into society. Prayer is one powerful key when ministering to prisoners and touches their deepest hurts as they feel lost, lonely and unwanted by the world.
Scripture reading: Mat 25:43-45 – I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
Jesus was so clear about believers ministering to the poor and those in prison. It is not possible for everyone to be personally involved in prison ministry, but we can pray! You can consider making prayer for prisoners part of existing weekly group meetings. Also, if your church has a prison ministry, ask them to start sending you prayer requests to bring before the Lord. Following, are some prayer guidelines to consider when praying for inmates.
1. Their relationship with God. Pray for prisoners to come into a personal relationship with the Lord. Ask that they will experience His love and allow Him to transform their lives and fulfil His purpose in their lives. Ask that they will become involved in Christian activities within prison.
2. To grow spiritually. They have much time on their hands to read and study the Bible, as well as pray. Pray for them to use their time well, to find different ways to study the Bible, and to pray for their families and about re-entry into society when their sentences are completed.
3. Self-control. Prison is not an easy place to be! Pray for prisoners to respect the authority of the prison staff, to be able to control their temper and show the fruit of the Spirit in everything they do. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict them of their wrongs, and that they will show and experience genuine remorse for the harm they have caused their victims, and that they would seek to make amends as appropriate and possible.
4. Family relationships. Pray for prisoners’ relationships with their families. To admit their wrongs and the pain they may have caused their families. Pray that they will change their behaviour and commit to keep in touch with their spouse and children. Ask for inter-family relationship to be strengthened although they are apart. Intercede especially for reconciliation in strained or broken relationship. There are normally feelings of shame. The family struggle with the shame of having a family member in prison and the prisoner himself experiences shame and guilt feelings. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help prisoners to overcome feelings of guilt and shame, to understand the forgiveness available to them in Jesus, and to have a revelation of the love of the Father for them.
5. Interaction with other prisoners. Pray for their protection so they will not be drawn into gang-activities within prison and stay away from harmful associations/friendships that may lead them to commit more offenses while in prison. Pray for them to find godly friends who will support and encourage them.
6. Safety and protection. Pray for them not to get involved in fights, arguments or drug network operations within prison. Pray for their safety from beatings, stabbings, sexual assaults and other forms of victimisation e.g. intimidation and bribery in exchange for protection. The prison environment is conducive to the development of many unhealthy and harmful sexual relationships. Pray for prisoners’ protection from this and for deliverance for those who are already in such destructive relationships.
7. Preparing for re-entry into society. Pray for them to take advantage of training and study opportunities offered to prisoners. This will enable them to find a job and make a living upon their release, without having to depend on gangsterism and crime to survive.
8. Second-time offenders. It often happens to prisoners that soon after their release, they will fall yet into another offense and end up back in prison again. Pray for those who have been in prison several times because of repeated crimes, to really see the error of their ways and give their lives over to the Lord Jesus.
9. Christian prisoners. Pray for the many Christians worldwide who are in prison simply because they follow the Lord Jesus as Saviour. Ask for any false accusations to be exposed, and where they have been deliberately set up to fall foul of the law – simply because they are believers – that this will be uncovered and they will be released. Pray for their Christian testimony to touch many while they remain imprisoned.
10. Prison ministries. Pray for those in ongoing prison ministry, sharing Jesus with inmates. Pray for them to have wisdom and understanding about each inmate as they minister to them. Often prisoners are moved between prisons and it is not possible to build a long-term trust relationship with them. Ask for the Holy Spirit to minister to prisoners even when they are not close to someone who can help.