I thank You for the privilege to go into a juvenile detention center each week as a member of a ministry team. I thank You for the time with the young men last evening. I have no idea what card game we were playing that I “won”. However, it was fun.
Father, the young men I interact with each week have been charged with serious crime. Murder. Attempted murder. Armed robbery. Home invasion. Gun offenses. Their crimes are serious and the potential sentences they face in adult prison are very long. They have brought pain and suffering into people’s lives. I ask for your abundant grace this day on their victims. Help their victims to recover emotionally, physically, and financially. May their victims find full spiritual restoration in You.
However, these young men I interact with are not the monsters the public presumes them to be. They are teenagers. They laugh. They smile. Like millions of other teens, they enjoy computer games. They are eager to talk to friends and family during their allotted phone calls. They share their thoughts and feelings with those of us who come in to get to know them. Many have aspirations for a better life. College graduation. Working in human resources. Opening up a business. Working in a shoe store. Coaching basketball teams.
They listen to us as we talk to them about life. They listen to us as we talk to them about making wise decisions. They listen to us as we talk to them about You. They ask questions. They answer our questions. They volunteer to read from Your Word. When we are done talking in our circle, they stand together with us as we pray. They share with us their prayer concerns, 95% of which are concerns for their court dates and their families back home.
Father, these guys come from broken homes. Their fathers are often absent. Their fathers or brothers may be incarcerated themselves. Their neighborhoods are dangerous. They learned how to survive on the street and it is that schooling, along with drugs or alcohol, that contributed to their crime.
I ask for Your compassion and grace this day on each of the young men in the facility I visit. I lift up the young men who I had the opportunity to get to know earlier in the year but who have since left the facility. Father, intervene in all of their hearts and get them on the right path. Turn them into godly men. Turn them into good citizens. Turn them into devoted fathers. Turn them into mentors in their neighborhoods, guiding other teens away from foolishness. For those who will be going to adult prison, protect their hearts and minds. Keep them from harm. Keep them focused on You, on their families, and on their futures. Keep them from committing more crime. Help them to turn away from temptation and to do what is right.
Father, I pray for Your mercy for them in the court system. Yes, may there be justice. However, I pray for the justice of heaven. Your court doesn’t just look at the law of the land. Your court also looks at the heart of each young man. Justice for You includes the opportunity for lives to be changed and for testimonies of the transforming love of God to be shared. Therefore, may the court system give each young man leniency in proportion to their eagerness to change their life around.
Father, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of juvenile detention centers across America. My prayers for the men in this one facility also apply to the men in all these other facilities. Father, bring believers in Jesus Christ into each one of facilities across the nation. May every inmate at a juvenile detention center know that Christians care for them because Jesus Christ loves them.