Prison Prayer (Guest Blog Post)


Note: I recently began working with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World. I am serving as their contact person for faith-based organizing. One of the things I’m doing in that capacity is compiling worship resources for congregations or religious communities committed to solidarity with prisoners. A couple of Sundays ago I preached a sermon on prison abolition at the First Parish in Needham. Tonight I offer this prayer written on the eve of the September 9th prison strike by my longtime collaborator the Rev. Ian White Maher. If you have a worship resource—prayer, hymn, sermon, liturgy or the like—that you’d like to share please get in touch.

Prison Prayer

Source of life, God, my darling,

Where does the violence come from?

The violence we do to one another.

Where does the cry for vengeance come from?

Some say it comes from you,

But I don’t believe that.

Why is it so hard for us to want to be in love with one another?

My darling, I think sometimes that we are addicted to this violence.

That we wouldn’t know who we’d be without it.

From the tough talk on TV, to the swagger of the gun toters, to the meanness of our politics, to the cages and cages of human beings we have created.

O, God, the cages.

They make me weep.

What have we done? What are we doing?

How can we look at those cages and then look at ourselves in the mirror and think we are a moral people?

I know what goes on in those cages.

I know their purpose is pain.

I know we damage those people, call them predators.

But sometimes I wonder who is the prey.

My darling, how much of my money have I willingly given to this sadism?

To this spectacle of violence?

Sometimes I feel so lost, like a small droplet in a raging ocean.

What can I possibly do?

Please help me, please help us, find our way out of this addiction, out of the cages, and into the Love I believe is possible.

My darling, give me the vision of a cageless future, give me the strength to weather the accusations of treason, give me endurance to work for freedom even if the journey stretches on beyond the length of my life.

But most of all give me Love so I might be the message I hope to see.

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