Revealed Through Prayer
Brother Eric Merkle’s testimony points out just how effectual and fervent prayer reveals God’s purpose. The heartfelt burden for more of God’s presence in the prison chapel and in the hearts of His men in the camp, created the spiritual environment which cast that burden upon Christ. In response, He sent His vision for a ministry that projects the work He came here to perform–preaching deliverance to the captives and setting at liberty them they are bruised. (Luke 4:18; Isa. 61:1). The same work He has left us to carry forward. (Matt. 25:36-40).
Christ’s vision came to us here in prison, with words of restoration and purpose. It revealed His heart for the downtrodden, the poor in spirit, and the lost sheep. That vision captured us and now compels us to go to our fellow prisoners with those same words of restoration, hope and purpose. The Holy Spirit pointed us to Paul’s words to Timothy, that he not consider captivity to Christ as a shameful vocation, but rather, a liberating place to live out Christ’s purpose for his life. (2 Tim. 1:8-9). Paul’s exhortation resonated in our hearts, revealing that this natural prison experience has provided the opportunity to see the real captivity we were in–the captivity of sinful flesh. The captivity which had led to our substituting our own opinions and will for the will of God.
The Holy Spirit has built upon Paul’s words through an examination of Joseph’s life. It planted and cultivated the seeds of the vision of Prisoners of Purpose. In Joseph’s life experience, He revealed a heart that reflected surrender (captivity) to God’s unstated purpose for his life. Without the written word of God to guide him or evidence of direct communication with his heavenly Father, Joseph quietly, steadfastly and patiently assumed the position of obedience to God’s unspoken and unrevealed plan.
God was with Joseph and delivered him out of all of his afflictions. (Acts 7:9-10), including a natural prison experience. In response to our prayers for inward change, the Holy Spirit showed us that we too are “prisoners of purpose” and not just prisoners of this federal correctional system. As prisoners living out His purpose, we permit His Spirit to reveal to us God’s good out of what the enemy meant for evil (Gen. 50:20).
God has given us the vision of meeting the spiritual and practical needs of incarcerated men and women and their families–looking more on the needs of others than our own. His revelation to us in this place is that this natural imprisonment presents no walls to Christ’s purpose for a life surrendered to it.
One example of going beyond these walls is in the Vision Christ revealed to Brother Bowers. He gave Bowers the intricate and detailed plan for the development of a center that would provide educational opportunities, skills training and occupational training to family members of the incarcerated. A vision that provides meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothing for the naked, friendship for the stranger and reduces the harmful fallout of the enemy’s plans to destroy the family. (Matt. 25:36-40).
As we share the “purposed-direction” Christ has shown us, with our families, they are equally encouraged to pursue purpose. They become as much a partaker in our spiritual purpose as they are in the natural challenges of this incarceration. Furthermore, their ministry of purpose through their trials, has encouraged others with Jesus’ heart for ministering to those in prisons, to come alongside us.
We have discovered that fixing the heart on Christ’s purpose for our lives does much more than prepare an inmate for re-entry into his community. It transforms the inmate from the inside out and prepares him to transform his community. Together, an army of Christ-purposed disciples can transform an entire society. Christ showed us in His training manual–the Holy Scriptures–a pattern of spiritual development that prepares every soldier to effectively battle for their purpose. .
His revealed pattern became the framework of the Prisoners of Purpose Re-entry Planning Program and Bible Study. It is a pattern that begins with ingesting the Milk of His word for believing in Christ; the daily Manna of His word for following Christ; the Meat of His word for serving Christ; and the Strong Meat of His word for stewardship of Christ’s work on the earth. As we continued in prayer and study of His word, He built upon the framework with biblical principles that, through faithful application, could transform the inmate into a Prisoner of Purpose.
Room For All
We discovered on the path to completing the curriculum study, that the pattern of spiritual development He had revealed was a course necessary for every believer to run. Every and anyone who desires escape from the captivity of the world’s deception can find his or her purpose, by resolving to be a Prisoner of Purpose. It is a symmetry seen in the life of Paul. While he was known as Saul, he was captive to the enemy’s will to destroy the work of Jesus Christ–binding and delivering His disciples into prison (Acts 22:4). But, after he accepted Christ’s purpose for his life, Paul became a prisoner himself, figuratively and realistically.
Like Paul, anyone can begin and continue to live out Christ’s eternal purpose for their life, by employing the principles of spiritual development iterated in the milk, manna, meat and strong meat of God s word. Our Father desires that all should come to know their purpose in Him (2 Pet. 3:9).
That means all of us, regardless of our position in life, our physical location, or past struggles are called to a purpose in God. He calls each of us to participate in His plan and purpose for our lives. Throughout scripture God has used the lives of men and women (some named and some unnamed) to play a part in His grand plan for mankind. Moses, Abraham, Joseph, Esther, Mary, the woman at the well, the blind man at the temple–all played a part by allowing God to reveal something inside of them He could use. There are times when His purpose places us in positions of visible leadership and responsibility. However, there are many more moments where our quiet obedience and our faceless and nameless actions have tremendous kingdom impact.
Prisoners of Purpose ministries has its scriptural foundation in 2 Timothy 1:8-9, which exhorts believers to join in the afflictions of the gospel with their fellow servants. There are many of our respective family members, friends, and fellow believers who have expressed a desire to partake in the work of this ministry. The fact that you are reading this newsletter, in print or online, indicates that Christ may already be tugging at your heart to get involved. If so, you are a partaker.
The Lord told his prophet Habbakuk, to “[W]rite the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it” (Hab. 2:2). We thank you for reading this excerpt of the vision He has given to this ministry. We also thank you for your prayers, your willingness to listen to Christ’s call on your heart, and for your humble response to that call. Moreover, regardless of what you do with these words, you should know that you are held in high regard and lifted up in prayer by His Prisoners of Purpose daily.
–Stewards of Prisoners of Purpose Ministry