A Prayer for the End of the Death Penalty

By Molly Cahill, Assistant Editor, America Media
Originally published in America following Missouri’s execution of Ernest Johnson on Oct. 5, 2021.
God who forgives,
We will never comprehend the depth of your mercy, 
which brings saints and sinners alike into your embrace.
May we still trust in your ways.
God who became human,
You, too, died at the hands of the state.
As you suffered on the Cross, many taunted and jeered, believing justice was being done.
Others wept for you, stood by your side and knew the truth of your message.
Let us be like them, close to those whose death the world sometimes watches, sometimes ignores.
You are close to them in their final moments, and we should be, too, in whatever way we can.
God who is justice,
Let the systems of justice we build on earth reflect your love for all creation.
Let them value redemption over punishment, future over past, life over death.
Let us realize that your justice is your mercy.
God who understands,
Be with us in our devastation.
Give us time to feel our sorrow, to acknowledge the profound injustice that happens when our government kills in our name.
But after that moment, be the strength that urges us on: to be advocates, caretakers, brothers and sisters to those who suffer at the hands of the prison system and state-sanctioned execution.
Let our lamenting be meaningful, and let it become the action that will change hearts and minds.
May our righteous anger be the reason this never happens again.
Remind us of the lives our prayer and advocacy still can save.
Lord, have mercy,
on the victims of violent crimes, of all crimes.
And have mercy on those who commit crimes and on those who so wrongly decide that a wrongdoer’s death amounts to justice.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
May we all live our lives much more closely to the love and compassion that is your very being.
God who is faithful,
Your justice will bring an end to all evil systems and structures.
For an end to the death penalty, we pray.