Forty years ago, one of my predecessors as Free Churches Moderator joined with the then Archbishops of Canterbury, Westminster and Wales to support the recently established annual Prisons Week. In Thought of the Day this week we will be adding to the prayers of churches in England and Wales as part of Prisons Week 2018.
As we think of prisons, prisoners and prison staff, Paul’s 1st Century imprisonment in Philippi is a good starting point.
He was arrested with Silas at the request of slave owners who had lost their livelihood when a young fortune-teller they had been exploiting was set free.
The magistrates gave in to an angry crowd and had Paul and Silas imprisoned where conditions were poor and treatment harsh. A jailer’s life depended on fulfilling the magistrates’ wishes, and this was complicated by having his family living on site.
The jailer in Philippi feared for his life when a God-sent earthquake loosed chains and opened doors.
Assuming that all his charges had fled, he prepared to commit suicide in anticipation of the inevitable. Paul’s intervention saw him surrender his life to Christ, and that brought compassion to the fore.
Prisons are still challenging places today. We need to pray for prisoners and prison conditions, remembering those officers, governors and chaplains who, in the midst of extreme work pressures, seek to balance prison duties with family life.
Compassion still has an important place in prison ministry.