For early Christians, prison had no pretence of rehabilitation. People were incarcerated while awaiting trial or execution — or while they attempted to raise the funds to relieve a debt.
The intemperance of incarceration and the miserable conditions of confinement inspired Christ’s faithful followers to make routine devotions for prisoners. They prayed that the poor and powerless in prison might not subcomb to the darkness of despair. At the same time, they took up collections to free the debtors who would otherwise die behind bars.
Conducted throughout the year, this devotion of prayer and almsgiving had particular relevance during Easter which has been long associated with the theme of liberation of prisoners.
You can participate in this ancent devotion by joining us in our Lenten Cross Project — either through your church or on your own.
You will receive the name of a prisoner who is serving time in prison and invited to pray for that person during Lent while folloign along with a series of daily reflections on the experiences of prisoners and those who have been affected by their incarceration — their victims, loved ones, criminal justice professionals, and community volunteers.
When praying for a single person in prison, participants often notice that the problem of crime and corrections – which most people understand only from the sensationalized perspective of politicians and reporters – all of a sudden becomes more personal and more vivid. The stereotypes and hard to comprehend numbers all fade into the background. And what shows up are the real people who are lost in the shadows of the criminal justice system.
At the end of the project, participants are invited to make a small donation to Chattanooga Endeavors of a nickel a day, a dime a day, a quarter a day, a dollar a day (or more) for the 40 days of Lent.