Life Prayers

A Prayer to Abolish the Death Penalty

God of compassion,
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts
So that we may love you as You love,
Even those among us
Who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.

For there is in our land a great cry for vengence
As we fill up death rows and kill the killers
In the name of justice, in the name of peace
Jesus, our brother
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
But you did not let hatred overcome you.
Help us reach out to victims of violence
So that our enduring love may help them heal.

Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice,
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
So that violence will be no more.


Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ

Capital Punishment Prayer Service

Reading 1: (statement by Marietta Jaeger, murder victim’s mother)

Believe me, there are no amounts of retaliatory acts that will compensate for the loss of my little girl or restore her to my arms. Even to say that the death of one malfunctioning person is going to be retribution is an insult to her immeasurable worth to me.

(pause for brief reflection)

Reading 2: (Statement by Coretta Scott King)

As one whose husband and mother-in-law have both died the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder.

(pause for reflection)

Forgiving violence does not mean condoning violence. There are only two alternatives to forgiving violence: revenge, or adopting an attitude of never-ending bitterness and anger. For too long we have treated violence with violence, and that’s why it never ends. -Coretta Scott King

“I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in

the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life. We cannot support any act of killing; no

killing can be justified. But not to kill is not enough … If in your thinking you allow the killing to go on, you also break this precept. We must be determined not to condone killing, even in our minds.” – Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist monk, peace activist, scholar, and poet

Leader: We have heard God’s call in the dark of a night filled with hatred, fear and revenge. We have heard the cry of God’s people – the plea of those on death row – for mercy. We have heard the cry of the families of victims of senseless crimes for healing, for wholeness, for an end to the bloodshed. Let us now respond to these cries and to God’s call to be instruments of healing and love, instruments of true justice. Let us respond in prayer and in deed.


For the men and women who sit on death row,
awaiting the end of their life:
that we might pray for them
with compassion and care;
We pray to the Lord:

For those who have lost hope,
and especially for those condemned to die:
that we might work to save their lives;
We pray to the Lord:

For those condemned to die,
and especially for men and women on death row:
that their plight might move the hearts of the people of this nation;
We pray to the Lord:

For guards on death row,
and all who touch the lives of those condemned to die:
for compassion, respect,
and an appreciation of the dignity of all human life;
We pray to the Lord:

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Prayer to End the Use of the Death Penalty

Merciful Father, we ask your blessing on all we do to build a culture of life. Hear our prayers for those impacted by the death penalty.

We pray for all people, that their lives and dignity as children of a loving God may be respected and protected in all stages and circumstances.

We pray for victims of violence and their families, that they may experience our love and support and find comfort in your compassion and in the promise of eternal life.

We pray for those on death row, that their lives may be spared, that the innocent may be freed and that the guilty may come to acknowledge their faults and seek reconciliation with you.

We pray for the families of those who are facing execution, that they may be comforted by your love and compassion.

We pray for civic leaders, that they may commit themselves to respecting every human life and ending the use of the death penalty in our land.

Compassionate Father, give us wisdom and hearts filled with your love. Guide us as we work to end the use of the death penalty and to build a society that truly chooses life in all situations.

We ask this Father through your Son Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.