Prayer for a Prisoner


I’ve only told a couple very close friends about Vince’s new address.  One, my neighbor Sarah, slipped this poem by John O’Donohue under my door, with a note apologizing if it was too sappy.

For a Prisoner

Caged in a cold, functional cell,

Far from the comfort of home

With none of your own things,

In a place that is gray and grim,

Where sounds are seldom gentle,

Amidst the shuffle of dumbed feet,

The crossword of lost voices,

The one constant note

Is the dead, trap-shut sound

Of unrelenting doors that

Make walls absolute.


Though you have lost the outside world,

May your discover the untold journey

That await you in the inner world.


May you come to recognize

That though your body is imprisoned,

No one can imprison your mind.

May all the time you have on your hands

Bring you into new friendship with your mind

So that you learn to understand and integrate

The darkness that brought you here.


Within this limited space,

May you learn to harness

The stretch of time.

May your compassion awaken.

May you learn to recover the self

You were before you lost your way

And draw from its depths

Some balm to heal your wounds.


Behind the harsh rhythms of prison life,

May you find a friend you can talk to

And nurture the natural kindness

To become more free in your heart

And lighten the outer constraints.


May your eyes look up and find

The bright line of an inner horizon

That will ground and encourage you

For that distant day when your new feet

Will step out onto the pastures of freedom.


Too sappy? If she had given it to me the day before I might have thought so. My mood is fluctuating day by day. But today I cried as I read it. Not even so much because it’s a beautifully and realistically written, but because someone actually cared enough about prisoners to write it.

But if you Google “Prayer for a prisoner” you’ll find a lot of hits, mostly from Catholic organizations. I make a mental note to check that out some day. Even though I’m not a believer, I find it really touching and comforting.

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