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Behind the wall physically, these men pray for others behind spiritual walls

HOUSTON (BP)–Prisoners of InnerChange Freedom Initiative, the first Christian prison in America, are asking God to give spiritual freedom to people in West Africa who have never heard of salvation in Jesus Christ.

“There are some who God calls to plead and seek his face on behalf of others,” said Erik Indian, one of the inmates, “[They] are given a commandment to intercede.”

The InnerChange prison is located in Houston and is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The prisoners, who volunteer for the program, are immersed in life-skill training and Bible studies 18 hours each day.

The inmates gather from 11 a.m. until noon daily to pray for each other and for ministries in West Africa. During the weekends, more than 100 men spend time in the prayer room interceding for others.

The ministry, called Behind the Wall, seeks for the “free” men in prison to bring the good news of freedom in Christ to those in spiritual bondage. And it is already producing results.

When the praying first began in mid-June, the leadership of InnerChange was in the midst of disputes with security staff of the Texas prison system. Indian said there also were problems of rebellion, bickering, sinful living and envy among the prisoners.

“For a Christ-centered program, it sure was dark,” Indian said. “The enemy had invaded the camp.”

But when 108 men committed to pray during the first weekend prayer vigil, changes began occurring. InnerChange settled the disputes with security guards. Men who were causing problems within the program were expelled. Men and family members experienced healing. Families were restored. Inmates have accepted Christ as their Savior, and others have answered a call to ministry.

“Lives have been transformed from the presence of God,” Indian said.

The prayer focus on West Africa emerged when International Mission Board missionary Mary Dean Phillips participated in a conference in Houston and was paired with Kaye McCutcheon, who works with the Prison Fellowship ministry.

Phillips shared with McCutcheon that God had given her a burden years ago to mobilize prisoners to pray for West Africa.

“The prisoners have a lot of time and it would be a way for them to redeem their time,” Phillips said.

But for two years Phillips had failed to find an entrance into prison ministries. After listening to Phillips’ vision, McCutcheon took the idea to InnerChange’s leadership, which had started its inmate prayer emphasis two months earlier.

“[The vision] fit us perfectly,” Indian said. “We were already in prayer; the hunger to intercede was already here.”

The Behind the Wall men receive weekly e-mails from Phillips with prayer requests from West Africa. Phillips said the prayer support is tremendously vital to the missionary work taking place in western Africa, where millions of people have little or no access to the gospel.

“In West Africa our top three priorities are prayer, people and partnership,” Phillips said. “We are thankful that the inmates at InnerChange have committed to partner with us in praying for the peoples of our region. Without prayer we will not accomplish the task.”

The praying also has influenced leaders in Africa to pray for the prisoners.

“We’ve seen an overwhelming encouragement and compassion among our leaders,” Phillips said. “It’s caused them to pray for the men at InnerChange.”

And the men of InnerChange have gained a global perspective of God’s work.

“Our hats go off to all missionaries over there,” Indian said. “We might be chained physically, but God’s Word and Spirit are not.”

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  • Brittany Jarvis