Prayer for a Vigil at a Detention Center

Tonight I was back at the Broadview Detention Center – a facility west of Chicago where undocumented workers are processed before their final deportation. I was there to participate in the “Night of 1,000 Conversations” – a program sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The all-night vigil offered an evening of prayer, discussion, education and action to explore how the Department of Homeland Security is undermining the civil liberties and human rights of people living in the United States. I was honored to be one of the clergy to offer prayers that opened the event.

As it turned out, this week’s Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, contained this uncannily relevant text:

There shall be one law for you and for the stranger; it shall be a law for all time throughout the ages. You and the stranger shall be alike before God. (Numbers 15:15)

How perfect is that? Inspired by the sacred serendipity of this verse, I wrote and delivered the following prayer:

Prayer for a Vigil at a Detention Center

Ruach Kol Chai – Spirit of All that Lives:

Help us. Help us to uphold the values that are so central to who we are: human beings created in the image of God. Help us to find compassion in our hearts and justice in our deeds for all who seek freedom and a better life. May we find the strength to protect and plead the cause of the stranger among us, to ensure just treatment for all who dwell in our land.

Guide us. Guide us toward one law. One justice. One human standard of behavior toward all. Move us away from the equivocation that honors the divine image in some but not in others. Let us forever affirm that the justice we purport to hold dear is nothing but a sham if it does not uphold basic human dignity for all who dwell in our midst.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the inhumane manner that in which we too often treat the other. We know, or should, that when it comes to crimes against humanity, some of us may be guilty, but all of us are responsible. Grant us atonement for the misdeeds of exclusion we invariably commit against the most vulnerable members of society: the unwanted, the unhoused, the uninsured, the undocumented.

Strengthen us. Strengthen us to find the wherewithal to shine your light into the dark places of our world. Give us ability to uncover those who are hidden from view, locked away, forgotten. Let us never forget that nothing is hidden and no one lost from before you. Embolden us in the knowledge that no one human soul is disposable or replaceable; that we can never, try as we might, lock away the humanity of another.

Remind us. Remind us of our duty to create a just society right here, right now, in our day. Give us the vision of purpose to guard against the complacency of the comfortable – and the resolve in knowing that we cannot put off the cause of justice and freedom for another day. Remind us that the time is now. Now is the moment to create your kingdom here on earth.

Ken Yehi Ratzon. May it be your will. And may it be ours.

And let us say,


5 thoughts on “Prayer for a Vigil at a Detention Center

  1. Shirley Gould

    Moving, appropriate, deeply religious. I admire a prayer that speaks to us in language we can understand, in language that relates the loftiest purposes of our humanity to the basic needs of other human beings.
    And particularly I welcome the phrase for the deity: Ruach Kol Chi, spirit of all that lives. It removes us from the familiar anonymity and accurately describes the God we accept.

    1. Ilene carson

      I agree amazing and stirring prayers for people who have been digarded by our goverment.I will do everything in my power to be there for your next prayer you know the issue of immigration hit to the very heart of my family


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