How to Help Spiritual Prisoners

Spiritual prisoners are people who are isolated, stuck, coerced, lacking freedom. One of the worst Christian heresies is predestination–the belief that we have no spiritual freedom. We know it is false, yet we easily believe it when we get stuck.

Always listen first.

You don’t really know a neighbor’s needs unless you listen. Listening is the door to compassion.

Be present.

“I was in prison and you came to me.” Being present helps with isolation, one aspect of being a prisoner. People are spiritual prisoners also tend to be isolated from others

Ask, “What do you want?”

Ask, “If nothing stood in your way, what would you do?”

Our freedom is essentially in our will and what we love. We can’t always have what we want, but we can always want what we want. By focusing on what we want and love we may discover freedom. (Mark 10:36, 51, Matthew 20:32, Luke 18: 31)

Discover options.

Discover options that your neighbor has.
Give your neighbor a choice. “Shall I say a prayer or read some Scripture?”

Even a person in solitary confinement has options about what to think about. Sometimes we get so distracted by what we can’t do that we don’t recognize options we do have. We are always in equilibrium between heaven and hell, and have a choice about which influences to accept. “As Long as We Are Alive in This World, We Are Held Midway between Heaven and Hell and Kept in Spiritual Equilibrium There, Which Is Free Choice” TCR 475 “The power of willing either good or evil, and of thinking either truth or falsity, and of choosing the one in preference to the other, is freedom. This freedom is given to everyone by the Lord, nor is it ever taken away from him.” New Jerusalem 149

Clarify boundaries.

We become trapped by walls or barriers that we create to protect ourselves from boundary violations. If we choose to clarify and respect our boundaries, it can remove the need for prison walls.
You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess. Deut 19:13, 27:17, Proverbs 22:28, 23:10) AC 3727

Think about heaven.

“Spiritual freedom is from the love of eternal life…. Everyone may come into this freedom who is willing to think that there is an eternal life.” (Divine Providence 73) Remember that we are in a balance between heaven and hell, and we can always look at our thoughts and determine where they come from.
Look to the Lord. Remember that the Lord loves our freedom, always protects it, and gives it to us together with life. The Lord said, “I was in prison,” because the prisoner’s desire for spiritual freedom is the Lord’s own desire in that person.

Discuss how the equilibrium between heaven and hell shows up in your neighbor’s life.
Share your ideas about what heaven is like.

Talk about the freedom to change your attitude, even when you can’t change anything else.

Ask the Lord for freedom.

5096. Who were bound in the prison house. That this signifies which were among falsities, is evident from the signification of “being bound in a prison house,” as being to be among falsities (see n. 4958, 5037, 5038, 5085). They who are in falsities, and still more they who are in evils, are said to be “bound,” and in “prison”-not that they are in any bond, but for the reason that they are not in freedom, for those who are not in freedom are interiorly bound. For they who have confirmed themselves in falsity are no longer in any freedom to choose and receive truth; and they who have much confirmed themselves therein are not even in freedom to see truth, still less to acknowledge and believe it; for they are in the persuasion that falsity is truth, and truth falsity. This persuasion is such that it takes away all freedom to think anything else, and consequently holds the very thought in bonds and as it were in prison. This has become evident to me from much experience with those in the other life who have been in persuasion of falsity through confirmations in themselves.
[2] They are such as not at all to admit truths, but to reflect or strike them back again, and this with hardness according to the degree of the persuasion, especially when the falsity is from evil, or when evil has persuaded them. These are they who are meant in the Lord’s parable in Matthew:
Some seeds fell upon the hard way, and the birds came and devoured them (Matt. 13:4);
the “seeds” are Divine truths; the “hard rock” is persuasion; the “birds” are principles of falsity. They who are such do not even know that they are in bonds or in prison, for they are affected with their own falsity, and love it for the sake of the evil from which it springs; hence they suppose that they are in freedom, for whatever is of the affection or love appears free. But they who are not in confirmed falsity-that is, in the persuasion of falsity-easily admit truths, and see and choose them, and are affected with them, and afterward see falsities as it were beneath themselves, and also see how they who are in the persuasion of falsity are bound. These are in so much freedom that in view and thought they can as it were range through the whole heaven to innumerable truths; but no one can be in this freedom unless he is in good; for from good man is in heaven, and in heaven truths appear from good.