How to pray in prison, part 1


Definitely not the easiest place to pray.

Upon examining the New Testament witness, there are several things that we glean from the life of the apostle Paul.

He was devout (Philippians 3:5), learned (Acts 22:3), loving (2 Corinthians 11:11) and full of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4). Not to go unnoticed, however, is that Paul was a man of prayer.

His prayer life is one that is well-documented in the NT (see Acts 16:25-26). Even from his own writings, we see his passion for the throne of grace. Paul makes mention of his prayers for the churches to whom he writes. Consider the following:

Ephesians 1:16 ESV – “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”

The apostle truly modeled the preeminence of prayer in the life of the believer. A commentary on the subject posits, “Prayer must be more than simply a devotional habit in the Christian’s life. It must be a ministry, both in the lives of individual Christians and within the life of the local church.”

What is of particular note, though, is that Paul wrote Ephesians from a prison cell. Likely penned during his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:16-31), he writes this letter, as well as Colossians, Philemon and Philippians, with much fatherly concern and affection. Facing the uncertainty of what lies ahead, he is preoccupied with the well-being of the church; in fact, he does not cease to pray for them (Eph. 1:16).

How can we, then, “continue steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2) while in a prison situation?

We need to, first, understand what are the “prisons” in our lives. Paul was under actual lock-and-key — and that on more-than-one occasion. You and I face circumstances that may not involve physical bars, but can be just as paralyzing. The apostle details three such prison scenarios in his letters from a Roman jail, the first of which we will discuss today. Subsequently, he gives us the remedy to maintain our prayer lives in such situations.

Prison #1: Schemes of the devil

Eph. 6:10-11 ESV – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

Some prisons in our lives are the result of the enemy’s schemes. This could be a temptation that has laid a snare, a stronghold (1 Cor. 10:4) or simply opposition (Daniel 10:13).

While satan is a defeated foe, on occasion, it could appear as if he has the upper hand. Sitting in his prison cell, chained to a guard, I can imagine the enemy whispering in Paul’s ear, saying, “I have you right where I want you.” How did Paul maintain his composure and desire to pray while under direst? How can we?

We need POWER to STAND.

In order to stand against the schemes of the devil, we need the Lord’s strength. This particular grace comes as we put on the “whole armor of God.” In Ephesians 6:14-17, Paul gives a rundown of the pieces that comprise this spiritual ensemble: the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit. (Here is an awesome resource for further study on the full armor of God.)

Not only is Paul telling us to arm ourselves for battle, but also to be prepared to fight! The reality is that we have an enemy whose sole objective is to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). If we are conditioned to treat the devil like a house cat and not a prowling lion, we will be overwhelmed when he attacks.

On the contrary, Paul not only admonishes us to remain prayerful, but to employ our prayers into our spiritual arsenal. He writes, “and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:17-18 ESV).

While satan may have thought chaining Paul to a Roman soldier was achieving a victory for darkness, the apostle was able use the situation to inspire the church to arm themselves and pray. Let us, then, receive his encouragement and “stand” in the face of the devil’s schemes.


~ by christianballenger on January 30, 2016.

One Response to “How to pray in prison, part 1”

  1. Amen. Great encouragement for the saints of God.

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