The theme for Prisons Week this year is What does freedom mean to you? And are you free?
I wonder what freedom means to you? Is it a feeling you get on holiday or when you get a few hours away from caring responsibilities? Perhaps it is a time when you are in church and can worship freely? Or perhaps it is when you are admiring a beautiful view…?
Prison chaplains, who carry out vital pastoral work with prisoners (as well as staff), often see that prisoners find it hard to believe that God has any interest in them or their lives. I know, at times, we may all have these feelings when things are tough or we are going through hard times. But for those serving custodial sentences, whose liberty has been taken, and who are struggling with a sense of guilt for their crimes, the idea of freedom and being within the love of caring God may feel very far from them.
In the introduction to this year’s Prisons Week prayer sheet The Ven. James Ridge (Chaplain General/Head of Faith Services, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service) shares some inspiring thoughts on what freedom is and what it means in light of the work that prison chaplains undertake. Reverend Ridge writes: “God’s will and intention for all his people is freedom – the freedom to be the people he created them to be. As Prison Chaplains we work with people who often find it hard to believe that God has any interest in them or their lives. They struggle with the concept that they are made in the image of God and do not dare to hope that they may have a future in God which does not involve crime, arrest and imprisonment. In the same way, those whose lives have been marred by crime and its effects, or whose work brings them into daily contact with its destructiveness, often struggle to see a new future in which the promise of freedom in Christ might be fulfilled.This Prisons Week we give thanks that the freedom which God offers is available to all, even to those whose liberty has been temporarily or permanently taken away by society. As we pray together for all those who come into contact with the criminal justice system in any way, we share in that work of establishing God’s covenant of redemption – that each person, precious to God, might discover what freedom can truly mean for them.”
Join with us and pray through the coming week…
Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the actions of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and in his Spirit, now and every day. Amen.
(photo courtesy of Tom Barrett at Unsplash)