Pathways to prison are paved with economic deficits such as food insecurity, inadequate education, poor housing and insufficient social services. Women are being jailed simply because they are poor, can’t pay the bills and struggle to get their children a home, security, love of family and education. Women in Service Everywhere (WISE) explores issues fuelling an increase in the mass incarceration of women and girls globally, and invites you to join in their 31 days Prayer for Incarcerated Women.
“Can I Push It?” is a thought-provoking Bible study at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. It intentionally stretches your thoughts about the things of God. As we engage in the 31 days of prayer and praise, Micah’s inquiry encourages us to push beyond our implicit biases and become clay in the Potter’s hands. God invites us to change the quality of all our relationships by expanding our thoughts about justice while transforming the shape of ministry. Just as the abolitionists advocated to end slavery as allies to the enslaved, our God expects us to do the same.
So, what does that require? During the 123rd Annual Session we integrated several new approaches to ministry. We learned that asking “what happened to you” instead of “what’s wrong with you” is a better approach. As discerning disciples, we discovered an appreciative inquiry — looking for the best before identifying the worst — is a better way to meet people where they are. Now we understand that Trauma Informed Ministry requires asset mapping coupled with participatory learning and action to become better servant leaders.
Touching lives with transforming love, we lift up prayers for our incarcerated sisters. Lott Carey Women In Service Everywhere dedicates this 2021 prayer guide to the women at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in New Jersey, who inspired the theme. WISE honors the memory of President Rosette Graham standing in the gap for our incarcerated sisters with unconditional love. In the words of my Liberian brother and friend, the Rev. Emile Sam-Peale, we pray for “plenty blessings—yah!” Dr. Angelita Clifton is First Vice President of President of WISE. She is an associate minister at Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, New Jersey.
Touching lives with transforming love
“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8 NIV
The Prophet Micah shows us what God requires by connecting our worship with our witness, our words with our deeds, and our talk with our walk. Interceding on behalf of our incarcerated sisters around the world requires self-examination. Our understanding of justice in general (and criminal justice in particular) requires cross-examination: What does it mean for us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the incarcerated? Is justice about retribution, punishing perpetrators? Is justice about restoration, making victims whole? Or is justice about transformation, changing social systems? Does biblical justice require all three to be real, relevant and relational? As you read through the prayer guide, ask yourself: “What does the Lord require of me?”
Day 1 Australia: Habakkuk 1:2-4
Father of all justice, every day we cry our deep river of tears. We are weeping because our daughters and our mothers are filling our prisons again. We continue to live in miserable poverty and violence. Our children are taken from us by our government. You did not create us to suffer this type of poverty, family violence, abuse, and trauma in our own land. Our own leaders cry out for justice daily. But they are not heard. Like Habakkuk of old, we are asking you; “God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke!”
Merciful Father, when will we be able to hear your voice? It seems so silent and distant. When will we see your strong arm defeat our enemies? When will you hear our deep weeping and come and rescue us? How much longer will it be for us to pray and say with Habakkuk;
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (3:17-18 KJV)
Father of all creation, please come quickly to rescue us. We plead for mercy in the name of your son Jesus. Amen.
Sharon Minniecon Scarred Tree Ministries Glebe, New South Wales Australia
Day 2 Bahamas: Psalm 8:1-9
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth. Your majesty, dear God, gives us courage to speak with you on behalf of incarcerated women in the Bahamas. I pray that you remember their plight during this difficult journey through incarceration. As they navigate the experience, I pray that you give them hope, courage, and tenacity to become successful inside and when they are released.
Because you are the God of both freedom and justice, I pray that you balance these forces that are so often seen as opposite ends of the spectrum. Free the women’s hearts, minds, and spirits so that they can worship you and recognise real freedom that transcends the walls and the pain caused by their incarceration. Help them to grow through their pain as you prepare them for their purpose. Because your name is majestic in the earth, you have the power to help the women see your goodness as they take their journey. Help them to see your work in them daily, preparing them for a future that you see so clearly. Your presence is always with your children, your hand is always with us, so I leave their future in your care and ask that you give them the future that is in line with the plans that you have for them — a future with you.
Let the women build healthy relationships inside and outside of the walls. I pray for their families who are in touch as well as families who are estranged. I pray for the spouses, mothers, grandmothers, children, grandchildren, nieces, aunts, and extended family; that everyone will survive the experience, emerging from it stronger than when they started this leg of the journey. We recognise the power of your forgiveness. Help the women and their families to embrace it right now, and to accept all that you are willing to give for their healing and restoration. Cause them to turn to your amazing grace that has been at work in their lives.
I pray for those who are responsible for the safe and secure workings of the institutions and those who have supportive roles within the system. Give them wisdom, patience, empathy, and all that they need to be effective in the lives of the women.
Thank you for answered prayer in Jesus’ majestic name. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Joy Lynch Supervisor of Chaplaincy Services Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women Clinton, New Jersey
Day 3 Bangladesh: John 16:33
To my sisters in Bangladesh who are locked away from the world in captivity. I pray that in the darkest moments you are able to see light. My wish is that the country realizes that women are the backbone of the nation and no life deserves to be in a cage.
I hope the world hears your silent cries to save you from the abuse of a patriarchal society that preys on your womanhood. You are divine sisters with divine insight. Your courage and resilience inspire me to keep fighting for your voices to be heard.
My prayer is that you see freedom soon. May God bless all of your children so that they can carry out your powerful legacy. Keep fighting my sisters. Do not succumb to your conditions. Let your voices be heard.
My prayer is that you receive salvation. May you return home to your community with open arms. Lord, protect these women and allow them to live the lives they dreamed of living. Please Lord, let these sisters be the last sisters ever put into the Bangladeshi prison system.
Protect them from their abusers and give them the courage they need to endure and return triumphant. My heart and my prayers are with you, my sisters.
Thinking of you. Free our Bangladeshi sisters now Lord. Amen!
Dr. Liza Chowdhury Assistant Professor The Borough of Manhattan Community College City University of New York
Day 4 Brazil: Luke 4:18-19
Dear God, behind prison walls in Brazil are more than 45,000 women. We cry when we learn that the number of prisoners grew four times in the past two decades. Our hearts hurt even more when we remember that 45% of these women prisoners have not been judged in court.
We implore you to touch the stone hearts of the rulers in the justice system who have been negligent with these women’s lives — rulers who do not provide or promote positive public policies for these thousands of women who remain far from home and are unable to provide for their children. The majority of these women are mothers, imprisoned for their involvement in drug trafficking. Many have fallen victim because they are married to drug dealers.
We ask for justice to be done, loving God, to stop the violations of these Brazilian women’s rights. We petition you to help with the lack of access to hygiene products, such as sanitary pads and toilet paper in prisons. How much humiliation must your daughters suffer?
Spirit of Liberty, put your hands on the young women who are in the women’s prisons in Brazil. The majority are under 30 and underserved. They suffer due to the lack of opportunities leading to a brighter future.
Merciful Lord, most women imprisoned in Brazil are Black — a reflection of the sin of structural racism that scars the history of this country where people should be able to live in harmony and equality. Forgive this sin. Dear God, we thank you for raising up of men and women in politics, in courts, and in religious spaces who are filled with compassion and mercy for these suffering women. Please, sustain the strength of these people and allow their solidarity to be the source of inspiration and encouragement for all of us, on every continent, in the pilgrimage for justice and peace. Amen.
Dr. Magali do Nascimento Cunha Methodist Church Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Day 5 Canada: 1 Timothy 1:15-17
O God of limitless love and healing hope who stretches our concept of mercy and justice, we humbly come before you today. You are to be praised above all that we know and understand because you are more than we can ever comprehend. Forgive us our small-mindedness in the midst of the vastness of your universe. We lift before you this day, the women, young and old, who are incarcerated in prisons and jails in every province and territory of this land. We judge them when we do not understand fully what they have endured — the debilitating abuse of mind and heart and soul.
We ignore and fear those who look or act differently from us: those with tattoos, piercings, ragged clothing, spiked hair, unkempt, cursing, addicts. We blame them for poor behaviour when we see only what is in front of our faces and not what is behind the veil. We wound them out of our fear of losing what we believe we have or who we believe we are. But might we not be like these women? We cannot even contemplate such a thought! We must deepen, within us, our compassion for these women who are more like us than we want to admit.
Great Physician, pour your healing and your begin-again power upon them — resuscitating their minds, their bodies, their souls. They are separated from all that would give them comfort and hope by walls, fences, and razor wire; by fear, guilt, shame; by judgement, hatred, prejudice. Surprise us and them with your empowering compassion so that we may love these women, our neighbours, as we love ourselves. Nudge and prod and push us to reach out to them with your wondrous generosity, warming comfort, and transforming grace.
Their children, parents, siblings, partners, loved ones, need your sustaining comfort as they, too, are separated from those they love and for whom they pine. They, too, often suffer rejection and oppression and marginalization for loving; for loving their imprisoned mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, granddaughters, grandmothers, friends. We pray for the courage to walk alongside these neighbours also; to welcome, to respect, to embrace.
We implore you, O God of limitless embrace, to grant to these incarcerated women throughout the land, the blessing and comfort of your everlasting arms; the liberating freedom to be who you have always desired them to be; the wondrous joy of knowing you and that they are your daughters. Keep us faithful, we pray, by the sustaining grace of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
Rev. Wilma Janzen Manager of Spiritual Services Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility Priestville, Nova Scotia, Canada
Day 6 Chile: Psalm 42:5
Omniscient God, we come to you on behalf of our sisters, mothers, and daughters in Chile. Your people, far and wide, are suffering amid multiple pandemics; racial, economic, and environmental injustice; unrelenting medical apartheid; and political and social upheaval of epic proportions. Your daughters are unprotected, unjustly detained, and incarcerated at increasingly alarming rates. They are desperately seeking to survive rape, sexual trauma, and all forms of gender-based violence. In your presence, there should be fullness of joy.
Yet, in recent times, the streets of Santiago — like in so many other parts of our aching world — have seen uprisings and civil unrest, sexual violence, and torture. We are in anguish at the massive number of civil and human rights violations and the thousands who have died or disappeared as a consequence of dictatorial leadership and systemic oppression. Sovereign God, have you not seen the afflictions of your people? Do you not feel the anguish of your daughters, and the rapidly increasing number of women and girls being criminalised and imprisoned as a direct result of economic disparities and financial hardships? Surely, you have not turned a deaf ear to the cries of the exiled and abused, particularly the women and girls forced to migrate due to abject poverty and grievous inequalities.
Show compassion on your daughters forced to live in detention centres with deplorable, unsanitary conditions and substandard medical services. Hear their cries, O God, and rescue them from physical and psychological abuse. Free them from sexual exploitation and the stripping away of their human dignity. Too many Chilean women and girls are withering away in mind, body, and spirit because of the unconscionable levels of female incarceration. You have called us to be your hands and feet in the earth. Help us to develop models of justice rather than circles of charity. Help us establish Trauma Informed Ministries equipped with the health and wellness services specific to the needs of incarcerated women, girls, and their families. Bring restorative justice and release from unjust sentencing. Send trusted allies and humanitarian aid without hindrance from government or any foreign entity.
Mend the broken hearts and shattered dreams of all your daughters. Redeem their interrupted aspirations and give them the strength to become active participants in their own healing. May your hope and courage be their constant companions, and may every woman and girl come to know their own sacred worth through the unconditional and all-encompassing love that you so freely give to us all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Dionne P. Boissière, Chaplain Church Center for the United Nations Associate Pastor Mt. Aery Baptist Church, Bridgeport, Connecticut
For incarcerated women and girls
Prayer from the Inside #1
Day 7 Psalm 51
Abba, we come before your throne with thankful hearts, to enemy continues to gloat over the incarceration, breakage, pain, to honour you and to say thank you, Lord, for another day of moil and long suffering of your children. But you have orchestrated grace and mercy. Thank you for your love Father when we this darkness and transformed your daughters from broken women did not love ourselves. We thank you for your faithfulness and strength to endure.
Abba, we ask that you look upon the women of Edna Mahan Correctional Facility and our sisters all over the world; those who are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually imprisoned. We ask that you pour your spirit throughout these prison walls like a mighty rushing wind.
Abba, please bind everything that is not of you. We come against spirits of depression, addiction, mental illness, low self-esteem, and break the cycles of abuse over our families in the name of Jesus.
Abba, we ask that you bind anything that prohibits women from being who you called us to be or tries to rob us of our purpose.
Abba, we thank you that all things work together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose. Even imprisonment. You have ensconced us safely throughout the walls of confinement and we thank you. What was meant for our detriment you have turned into development for your children.
Hallelujah! The enemy continues to gloat over the incarceration, breakage, pain, turmoil and long suffering of your children. But you have orchestrated this darkness and transformed your daughters from broken women into powerful women of God.
Just as you called Lazarus from the grave you are resurrecting new doors for your children. You are calling your daughters forth from the rotting graves of imprisonment.
Abba, for those who enter these walls of confinement after us, turn their hearts toward you. Heal them. Forgive their sins. Allow them to seek you first and to find comfort in your Word. As we leave this place, we ask that you go before us and prepare the way. Open the eyes and soften the hearts of society. Allow society to see past the mistakes and bad choices we have made and see us for who we are today … who we are in you, Abba. Let your light shine within us and lead our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Lucretia J. Stone, SBI# 230269C Edna Mahan Correctional Facility Clinton, New Jersey
Day 8 Colombia: Hebrews 13:1-3
Almighty God, we thank you for your love, for all that you teach us each day, and for the opportunity to collaborate in this project. Lord, we come together to pray for all the imprisoned women of the world. In particular, my petition today is for the approximately 7,500 women who are in prisons throughout Colombia. Continued gender inequalities, armed conflict, domestic violence, and poverty fuel the cycle in which most of these women find themselves — and that ultimately lands them in prison. Merciful God, we ask for your compassion and forgiveness for these women who have to endure unimaginable living conditions, separation from their family, and stigmatization once they are released.
Lord, we ask you to protect the people who work so hard for the benefit of imprisoned women; people such as actress Johana Bahamon, who in 2013 started Fundación Acción Interna, or “Internal Action.” The foundation’s mission is to give imprisoned women a second chance by providing training and assistance during and after incarceration. Lord, let this foundation continue to thrive so that more women receive the help they deserve. Lord, give these women courage to overcome the obstacles that are before them; to find love and acceptance from their families; and to be productive members of society. Amen.
Luz Escobar, Sergeant (R) Retired Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office Paterson, New Jersey
Day 9 Croatia: 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
Heavenly Father, at this hour I pray for the incarcerated women of Croatia. Break the spirit of anti-intellectualism in our churches that prevents so many capable women from seeing the needs of incarcerated women.
And break the spirit of fear and self-loathing in incarcerated women who have learned that they are never good enough. Let them know how valuable they are to you and show them your mercy. They need to be set free to see their talent and use their gifts. Grant them mentors who will walk alongside them for as long as needed, people who will recognise their gifts.
Father, please break the spirit of confusion that is watered and nourished by anti-intellectualism, indifference, carelessness, fear, and insecurity. Women succumbing to that false spirit are an easy prey to all kinds of charlatans and false teachers.
Fill our women with your Holy Spirit so that they can be strong and dedicated to you and to your Word. Help them find joy and their purpose.
Help us all to step up and see women in their struggles, both their needs that are evident and those that are hidden. Help us all to step up and work alongside you in bringing good news to these circumstances.
In the end, Father, I pray that you will aid and encourage those hard-working women who work alongside you. Often, they go unnoticed and invisible in small churches and unpopular settings — without pay or public recognition.
Please, Father, hug these lonely warriors and let them see a glimpse of your glory that their work brings to the world. Amen.
Dr. Ksenija Magda Assistant Professor of Biblical Theology University of Zagreb’s Centre for Protestant Theology Former President of Baptist World Alliance Women (2015-2020) Baptist Church Zagreb Center Zagreb, Croatia