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Christine LenahanJanuary 25, 2024
Photo via iStock

I want to pray for Kenneth Eugene Smith. I want to pray for the soul of a man who is scheduled to be executed by the state of Alabama at 6 p.m. tonight for a crime that he has been found guilty of.

I do not know Mr. Smith. I know only what I have read over the past several days about the horrible crime he has committed, and the horrible ways in which the criminal justice system has failed him: once in November 2022, during his botched lethal injection, and tonight. For the first time, Mr. Smith will be subjected to an untried and unprecedented execution by nitrogen hypoxia—a procedure that will cause him to die from lack of oxygen and that endangers the lives of the corrections officers and his spiritual director who will be in the room with him.
 
I want to pray because, at this point, it’s all I can do. 

“The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen 2:7).

God, breath of life,
grant peace to your son Kenneth.
Cuffed and rattling 
in the cold stillness of the room where he will die,
may he breathe deeply, fully
knowing that you are with him always.

God, let us remember that you are the air we breathe.
That we know not of your mysterious ways,
and yet our trust is grounded in you,
the one who sustains us and delivers us.

Let us recognize Kenneth as a living creature,
flawed, broken and human.
The same human form you sent your own son to inhabit,
to breathe the air that we breathe.

Let us remember that true justice comes through your mercy,
that which we can only hope to know.

Let us remember that true justice comes through your mercy,
that which we can only hope to know.

God, grant peace to the victim of this crime
And the victim of this crime.

Make known your son’s words, alive in their hearts:
“I will never leave you nor forsake you […] even until the end of the age.”

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