I wake, restless. Prisoners fill my mind. Maybe it’s the article I read about inmate overcrowding in the county jail. Maybe I miss my bible-bearing Sunday morning visits with them. Maybe I just see a little too much of myself in them. I don’t know but one thing is for sure – no matter how much freedom, rest, and peace my self-indulgent life offers, I cannot shake these captives out of my mind.
To me, the question is never, “How will we house more prisoners?” The question is always, “How can prisoners be set free?”
How can prisoners be set free?
Everywhere I look I see people in bondage. Everywhere. Only a few wear orange jumpsuits. Most are simply wrecked by guilt or pleasure or anger or lust. I see them and they disturb me. I know it because I am a daughter of Jacob – the deceiver. I see them because I was one of them. I care because I am a daughter of Israel – the prince and power of God. I care because I know the same God who changed Jacob’s name – the same Lord who set me free – can do the same for them.
The truth is, some days I’m just a lot more Jacob than I am Israel. Knowing I desperately need the very same grace those still in bondage do, my tears plead for mercy for us all. When prisoners fill my mind, my own wanton captivity is set brazen before me.
How can prisoners be set free?
Jacob wrestled with God. Matthew Henry writes, “Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, the angel prevailed not against him (Genesis 32:25), that is, this discouragement did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. It was not in his own strength that he wrestled, nor by his own strength that he prevailed, but in and by the strength derived from heaven…Strong believers must expect diverse temptations and strong ones.”
Jacob was afraid, terrified even, of his brother, who, by the way, had every right and reason to squash him. Jacob knew he was unworthy of God’s favor (Genesis 32:10.) Yet, Jacob obeyed God (Genesis 32:9.) He prayed. He absolutely refused to let go until God not only heard, but blessed him – not because he said so, but because he already had God’s Word which promised it to him.
Jacob was left alone. In his alone-ness, Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:24.)
Fayette County, if you wake up restless with prisoners on your mind, pray. Wrestle with God for them; for you. Do not let go until you see prisons empty and churches fill. Do not let go until divorce and DUI statistics reach an all-time low. Do not let go until every man believes fatherhood should be on the cover of Fortune and every woman believes motherhood is more important than materialism. Do not let go until you are able to resist the devil and submit to God, today, right now, even if you are still suffering the consequences of your incarceration. Then, go and make disciples despite your limp (Genesis 32:25.)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” ~Luke 4:18-19