Mercy come call on my cynical heart—a New Year’s prayer


…Pope Francis has called 2016 the year of mercy, perhaps the following can be one of the year’s prayers:

Mercy, come call on my cynical heart. Doubt I can live with, walk with, use as a candle to my path. But cynicism rots me while convincing me of its propriety.

So scour this soul, to receive the song of a dawn sparrow, to rekindle the wonder I once held like flames in cupped hands.

Raise these eyes to behold, and be held, by beauty kindness, gentleness…that fruit-of-the-spirit list against which there is no law.

Lift me to see the shining presence in all these faces that pass by.

Heal the hope that’s been tarred and feathered, mocked by corruption, scorned by powers, utilized, brutalized and blown up on the streets.

Keep me from ascribing meaning to all this violence, and so falling headlong into the tribalism of hate.

Free me from envy and bitterness—those cousins of cynicism. (May the earth and all its lovers forgive my careless footprints.)

Call up my mystic and rebel, let my voice find its voice, my prayer, its prayer, my offering, humility.

And when I feel blessed, let me receive it with gratitude—not tax it through assessment—but recline in it, without reserve.

When I want to die, or wish to live forever, help me listen to the wisdom of seasons. Let life and death be what they are, without making idols—and the days that remain, lived free.

Mercy loves empathy! so let me not forget Brian, Angel, John, Ally—who live on the streets, pick bottles, beg, expose my complicity, my poverty, my addictions, yet receive, welcome, humanize me, through their own halting, uncharted, quiet presence—with whom, on more than one occasion, I have been lead to divine the spirit of one identity.

Let the cool rain of mercy-loves-empathy soak through my nearest, dearest relationships, which can, without intention, be the ones left drying under a hot sun.

And shine a light on that shadow within, that other me that carries the burden of me, with its pain and disappointment. May there be a reunion of me with that other me, and so a truer me, you’ll meet.

Mercy, build a house for love, with a billion rooms for guests. Build it on a hill so love can be seen tending love’s garden, heard singing from the valleys, shouting the festal shout across the seas, calling welcome to all pilgrims leaving the caves of cynicism, entering the meadows of generosity, and waiting on the rest…waiting for all to undergo the burden of Love—so light a burden.


  1. So, so beautiful, Stephen and so poignantly in keeping with reading and contemplation I am doing on the path to becoming a spiritual director. I will print this out, and come back to it when I feel my heart hardening in the face of so much reality that is too hard to bear. It will be my invitation to open my heart and pray, yet again, that the Spirit will keep it softened and receptive to the hurts of the world and to Him. Thank you.

  2. One of your best, Steve. I especially loved the many biblical allusions, particularly the lightness of the burden of Love at the end ….
    … to recognize the pain under the cynicism ….


  3. Hi again, Stephen,
    I’m sure your prayer is touching many, but I know it is touching the Oasis Spiritual Direction community. This is another note I received back after sharing your prayer from the other teacher/leader, Nancy Bieber, who also leads retreats and has written a valuable book, Decision-making and Spiritual Discernment.

    “This is a truly beautiful piece. I think it is a wonderful writing to pray with lectio divina way so that each time I pray with it I will be stopped at a different line.
    I am leading a retreat at Pendle Hill on prayer paths at the end of January and I would also appreciate the gift of sharing it there. I would offer it as a prayer to live with and pray with over and over again.
    Thank you Stephen.”

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