Praying for prisoners

Become a faithful prayer warrior lifting up the needs of prisoners and speaking blessings into their lives.

praying for prisoners

For any prison ministry to be truly effective, it must have a solid foundation of prayer. In prayer we call upon God for resources that He alone can provide in our battle against the spiritual forces of darkness.

If you are part of an in-prison ministry, you know that prisoners have many prayer needs. They desperately want prayer for themselves, their families, and their future reentry back into society. All you have to do is say, “May I pray for you?” Prayer touches the deepest hurts of those who feel so lost, lonely, and unwanted by the world.

Every in-prison ministry team needs prayer warriors lifting up the needs of the prisoners as well as ministry volunteers. But prayer ministry for prisoners does not require going to the prison. Even if you’ve never been inside a prison or jail, you can be a prayer warrior interceding before the throne of God for those who are incarcerated.

You can simply gather at a friend’s house with a few other intercessors and pray for prisoners. If your church has a prison ministry, ask them to start sending you the prayer requests so you can lift them before the Lord.

Even when you don’t know specific needs to pray for, you can seek God’s power and provision for a variety of general needs.

Want to encourage people to pray for prisoners? Download and share this prayer list with others in your church or with anyone you know who feels called to intercessory prayer. Here is a list of common prayer needs of prisoners.

praying for prisonersPRAYER NEEDS OF PRISONERS


Pray for prisoners and their relationship with God, that they would:

  • Experience His love
  • Accept Christ as Savior
  • Allow God to work in them and accomplish His purpose in their lives
  • Earnestly seek God and get involved with chapel services and other Christian programming offered within the prison


Pray for prisoners to grow in godly attributes, that they would:

  • Respect the authority of the prison staff
  • Be able to control their temper
  • Exhibit the fruit of the Spirit
  • Experience genuine remorse for the harm they have caused their victims, and that they would seek to make amends as appropriate and possible


Pray for prisoners’ relationships with their families, that they will:

  • Be committed to keeping in touch with their spouse and children
  • Be able to maintain a strong connection with their family, despite being separated
  • Experience reconciliation in strained or broken relationships


Pray for prisoners and their relationships with other prisoners, that they will:

  • Make godly friends to support and encourage them
  • Stay away from harmful associations that will lead them astray
  • Be a friend to the lonely, the discouraged, the lost


Pray for prisoners’ protection, that they would:

  • Resist the snares of the evil one, Satan
  • Shun drugs and other types of contraband that get into prison
  • Be safe from sexual assault and other forms of victimization
  • Be healthy and free from serious illness


Pray for prisoners and their future, that they would:

  • Take advantage of prison programs to enhance their educational and vocational skills
  • Be wise in the use of their God-given talents
  • Seek the wisdom and resources they need to adjust to reentering society: job, housing, supportive friends, etc.


Pray that Christian prisoners will:

  • Remain strong in their faith
  • Find a volunteer mentor to encourage and disciple them
  • Have strength and courage to witness to other prisoners
  • Resist temptations and remain good role models


Download this resource. Once downloaded, you can print, save, or share the pages with others.


Here are six prayers that you can send to a prisoner or someone who’s in prison now can use.

Prayers for their Family

Father, we pray for those who are incarcerated, but we also pray for their families that they would receive the care and attention they need, and have their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs met by other family members, friends, church members, or someone else. Please Lord, allow them to keep their hope alive that a family member behind bars is still not forsaken or forgotten by God if they have trusted in Christ; if not, we pray for them to know Your Son, Jesus Christ. May the families find comfort from others who are in similar situations and that they would be praying for one another. Oh Righteous Father of Mercy, I pray for these men and women who are cut off from their families and who are serving time behind bars. As you know, it is very hard being separated from loved ones. I pray these inmates may be able to see themselves as you see them, and that they are a child of theirs and are co-heirs with Christ, just as much as those who are out in the world. We know, if they never get out, we will all meet together someday at the great wedding feast of the Lamb of God. If they are able to be released, please shield them from the judgment of others because they have already paid their debt to society, and they are now free. They shouldn’t be referred to as a criminal, con, or anything but a child of God…just like we are. Many of these men and women face that double jeopardy every day of their life after prison, so help others see them as forgiven and cleansed, and a child of God, and treated with respect and not treated as if they’re still guilty. I pray this in the name that is above all names, the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

praying for prisoners

Prayer for Peace of Mind

Father God, I pray for those prisoners who are behind bars and that You give those who’ve trusted in You, peace. Please help them to know that You are sovereign over all things and that much good can come from bad (Gen 50:20; John 3:16), and in even these men and women’s darkest hours, You are their true source of light which is found in Jesus Christ. I pray that you give them the peace that Your Word promises for those who believe in Your Son (Rom 5:1) and please help them to know they are no longer condemned (Rom 8:1). With the comfort that You give us, please give to them Lord, so that they might pillow their head tonight in peace, knowing that if you would come tonight, those doors would be open forevermore. I ask this for the glory of the Lord, Jesus Christ, in Whose name I pray, amen.

Protection from Danger

Father God, truly only You know how these men and women feel at this time. We cannot know exactly what they are living through right now. The world seems to be getting more dangerous every day Lord, and maybe for these men and women who might live with that fear. In Your sovereign providence, it pleased You to call out some of these in their darkest hours, and to become new creations in Christ (2nd Cor 5:17); to a new life in Christ. Help see that they can run to You Father, for You are a Rock and a Shield to those Who trust in You. In Your great wisdom God, You sometimes use hard places to soften hearts, and in such darkness, your grace is more amazing. Not many of us are great in the eyes of the world, but You have no respect for persons. You reach out to those who humble themselves Father, so help them submit to You and be set free from their fear by trusting in You. Please Father, protect them on the inside so that they would be able to study Your Word, be a witness to those still sitting in darkness, and submit to authorities which is submitting to God (Rom 13:1-5). God, You alone know the future of these men and women; help them to rest in Your sovereignty. Help them to know they can trust in You. For those who have not trusted in Your Son and received eternal life, please set divine appointments for those who are Christ’s witnesses inside the prisons, and keep them safe from harm while being His voice. May You receive all the glory for these men and women’s lives that’ve trusted in You, and in the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray, amen.

Hope in the Future

Great God in heaven, thank you for those who have received eternal life in Jesus Christ, and for those who have been born again behind prison bars. Please Father, enable them to see hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. Give them a desire to seek Him, and to long for that eternal home when all of the present, evil and suffering will be history (Rev 21:4). Please send them Your Spirit to point them to Your Word of hope in Your Holy Word, the Bible. Apart from You, and Your Word, we could not know You or Your Son, Jesus Christ, so thank You for granting us Your mercy and giving us Your grace, and for those who You have pardoned, even if the state has not, they are seen as having Jesus’ righteousness (2nd Cor 5:21). Help them to see that You have pardoned them, without parole, and loved them unconditionally. Lord God, allow them to fix their eyes on You, and the hope for a future we can’t even imagine, and that hope is found in Christ, in Whose precious name we pray, amen.

Using Bad for Good

Father, we know You can even use evil for good. All we need to do is to look at the cross, so help these men and women who are incarcerated to know that everything in our life, good and bad, is for our ultimate best (Rom 8:28). Sometimes we don’t always understand how bad can be good. Help these prisoners to see that God is not going to give up on them, because Your Word shows that You forgive their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. If these prisoners are able to see that You are still working in their life Lord, they might have hope and know that You have promised to never leave them or forsake them (Deut 31:6; Heb13:5), even when they or we forsake You. Help them to take You at Your Word, and not use their feelings to guide their beliefs. Perhaps You can use others to help them inside the prison Lord, for nothing is too hard for You. Allow them to see the good that can come from where they’re at now, and even if it looks bleak, good will come from it, and in Jesus’ strong name I pray, amen.

For Such a Time and Place

Great God in Heaven, You alone determine the future and know that which is not yet, so help these men and women to see that You have a purpose for where they are now, and know that You can use anyone for Your glory and for Your purposes, including them. We know that You have commissioned us to make disciples of all nations, and that includes those who are incarcerated. Father, may You use these Christians behind bars to bring others into the kingdom by pointing others to Jesus Christ and trusting Him. They realize that You have allowed them to suffer the consequences for their own actions, yet I realize You may use them to reach others behind bars where we cannot, so please Father, make divine appointments for these Christians in prison, and allow them to cross paths with those whose heart You have prepared for the Word, and in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ I pray, amen.


The Bible teaches us that Jesus expects His church to visit those who are in prison. He said, “I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:36), and this is how He sees it; “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40), but we can’t forget about these inmates families either. They need ministering too. If we minister to prisoners and their families, we do it for Jesus, but more importantly, what you do for the inmate’s families, you have done to the inmates. Ministering to prisoners is needed, but so is ministering to the families. They too are in a hard place, mentally, emotionally, and probably financially. Plus, they often live under “guilt by association,” unfair as that is, so they need all of the care and compassion they can get.

Something more for you to read: How I Was Set Free in Prison

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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praying for prisoners

Constance Tomich shares a smile and a conversation with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis following a 2014 Mass he celebrated in the chapel at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis June 29. Some Catholics who volunteer at prisons say their lives have been changed through their prison ministry. (CNS photo/John Shaugnessy, The Criterion)

It might sound like a hard thing to do: pray for prisoners. It isn’t.

Inmates who live in jail for any amount of time are people just like you and me. They’re sinners. They made mistakes just like you and I do on a daily basis. Granted, their mistakes are likely of a far more grave nature, but they’re mistakes — sins — nonetheless.

Those sins separate us from God just the same. We’re all granted the opportunity for forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation too. Sure, some may fall into temptation upon release and mess up again, but don’t we all?

Their sins may just be venial sins, not grave sins the next time around.

I’ve discovered that after encountering more inmates and family of inmates than I ever thought I might in my lifetime:

  • Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago celebrates Mass with detainees at a Cook County medium-security facility in Chicago Dec. 25. The cardinal also made a stop at Children’s Memorial Hospital to visit with children who are hospitalized and could not be home for Christmas and their families. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

    One of them I grew to know real well. The friendship, ironically, took root in the days surrounding a temporary jail stay for probation revocation.

  • If memory serves me right, another was a core team leader for a parish youth group before the coin was termed. That man went on to marry and hold positions within the church. I have bumped into him and his family at Thanksgiving Masses in recent years.
  • I met a few incarcerated youth for a story that never materialized. I was fortunate enough to sit in on their art class taught by a local Catholic volunteer.
  • I have encountered children whose parents are in jail.
  • Some percentage of women who stay at Maggie’s Place and clients using St. Joseph the Worker resources to secure employment — including some I have interviewed — have served time in jail.
  • I have virtually met a series of inmates, such as these women, via local and newswire stories on our website. I often find myself gripped with their stories of conversion and hope.

Praying for those in prison is something I do during night prayer. I’m not sure how it started, but I pray for them. This month, Pope Francis is drawing special attention to them via his universal prayer intention:

That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.

Fortunately, we have dedicated people in the Diocese of Phoenix helping facilitate that.

  • We have a diocesan Office of Prison Ministries headed by this man. He has an Army of volunteers who visit inmates, lead Bible studies and are old-fashioned penpals.
  • We have a local Catholic couple who treks from Mesa to north Phoenix every Thursday to visit youth in the juvenile detention center. They also visit on Christmas Day. The husband estimated that half of the 400 boys there don’t get visitors that day.
    The couple teaches from parables and other parts of Scripture guiding the boys toward the ideas of hope, peace and forgiveness. The husband encourages the boys to create five-year and 25-year plans.
  • We have St. Joseph the Worker, which brings its Mobile Success Unit stocked with job leads, tools, resume writers and hiring coaches to jails and for meetups with those on probation. The efforts have bore much fruit. The executive director of Paz de Cristo mentioned in this video that one of the agency’s guests came to the soup kitchen after 16 years in jail. After getting job leads and interview clothes and pounding the pavement for three weeks, he landed two full-time job offers.

Please remember to at least occasionally keep those in jail — and perhaps even those they left behind – in your prayers. They could certainly benefit from them. And our local Catholic outreaches show quite often that ex-inmates are capable of reform. Isn’t that what this season of Lent is about?


Here is one inmate who is ready to change for the better. Surprisingly, his family is trying to discourage him.

Jailhouse phone calls from an accused murderer

Disciples Of Christ

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,  

                   When I was on the inside as a prisoner I knew how important it was that there were people on the outside who loved me, remembered me, still believed in me, held me close to their hearts, and prayed for me. It can be so lonely and discouraging in prison. I spent two years on the inside and have been home for a little more than a year. Not one day has gone by that I haven’t remembered my friends that I made on the inside. Some I knew for only a short time as we made our way through the system and some I spent many hours talking to, walking the yard with, praying with, doing bible studies with, and helping each other maintain focus. Though it may be hard for some to believe, I met some wonderful people in prison. I pray for them each day and pray for all of the C.O.s, administration, chaplains, etc. There are a lot of people connected to prisons- those who work there and those who are confined there and in each situation there’s lots of pressure. So, it’s easy to see why they need our prayers. 
         It’s been on my heart to start this blog for some time and I’m finally doing it. I’ve often been reminded of the Letter to the Hebrews:

 “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3
          There is a huge physical separation from those whom we love when they are away in prison and, by God’s grace, we’ll be joined together with them again when they come home but we can still have a spiritual connection to those whom we love when we pray for them. We pray that God place his loving protection around all loved ones of those who follow this blog and as more names are added to our list we promise to pray for them and lift them up to God. May God keep all of them safe, may he continue to work on the hearts of those who need to know him more, may he make a way home for those who are able to return, and may he place a special blessing upon the lifers, those who may not leave the confines of those walls. In Jesus’ precious name we pray. Amen. 

I want to begin this list by lifting up some brothers that I know on the inside. May God watch over them this day and always:

  • Brian  Mosley
  • Tripp Halterman
  • Raul Beaton
  • Warner Battie
  • Scott Dougherty
  • Rich Cole
  • Everyone at SCI Rockview

If you want to add a family member or loved one to our prayer list please email me at [email protected]

In Jesus, 


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