“I HATE THAT BOOK!”  It was a volatile comment, overheard recently at a Christian book fair. And it had been said about MY book!

Why would someone say they hated a book of prayers? I was puzzled – and curious. What would make someone feel so strongly about prayer?

Then it came to me. The person had been, or had known someone who was, a victim! The person who has been wronged doesn’t want to forgive the deed. “An eye for an eye” is their angry response. A victim isn’t usually interested in knowing how the offender feels.

Consider, if you will, a shift in thinking here. I wrote the prayers in The Prisoner’s Prayer Book with men and women behind bars in mind. However, I have had it suggested to me, that these prayers could apply to others as well. Think of the prisons we make for ourselves. They may not be made of steel, but they are every bit as confining.

Perhaps the person who hates my book is the same individual who recognized his or her own self-made fortress. The raw and brutal emotions of searing pain, wracking remorse and painful jealousy often lurk only slightly below our outer facades. Isolation and loneliness then compound our ability to face the rest of our emotions head on.

If you have allowed yourself to build walls and to steel your emotions, there may be something in The Prisoner’s Prayer Book for you as well. You are not alone…whether you are behind bars of steel, or imprisoned in a silent world of your own making. God knows your pain…and prayer can help. And – just as an aside – even though that person was vehement about hating my book, that person still left the building WITH it.

A “New” Pay It Forward

This week I found myself feeling restless, irritated, and impatient. It seemed as though everywhere I turned, everywhere I went, someone was being disrespectful to someone, or something.

Although people in the church I’ve been attending are very friendly, the church itself is NOT a quiet and contemplative place on Sunday. Oh, I know the passage “Where two or more are gathered in my name….”  Still, I’m used to quiet and reverence upon entering a church.  Perhaps a friendly and talkative place is what a Sunday gathering is meant to be about and what many look forward to each week…but for me it was, and continues to be, disturbing.

Later in the week, I attended a conference. People not only made comments to each other during the presentations, but some actually carried on lengthy conversations! One of the ladies in charge noisily rearranged some things which certainly could have waited, and they even began setting up lunch while a speaker was still speaking. How rude!

When I listen to the news, one politician is slamming another, or a comedian is callously mocking something that happened recently. It becomes tiring. It becomes irritating. It makes me angry, and it makes me want to take a break from civilization. I’m sick of rudeness, and of this pervasive lack of respect almost everywhere I turn.

Time and again, lack of respect is a complaint I hear from prisoners. Just because they are behind bars, does not, I believe, give any one of us the right to degrade another human being.  Certainly, this disregard for another person can be blatant. It can also be exhibited in subtle ways. Sometimes we just don’t think. Most of us are guilty of falling somewhere in between. It is so easy to allow ourselves to participate in offhand gossip, often with no regard for a person’s reputation. Or, we are quick to anger and expletives pour forth as a driver cuts us off. Who hasn’t become inpatient with the person ahead of us in line who takes longer than we think he should?

I love the concept of “paying it forward.” Perhaps this week we can make an effort to respect those with whom we disagree, and to honor the dignity of persons we don’t like. Go ahead, call me a Polyanna, but yes, I’m tired of rudeness and meanness and disrespect. The media is capable of spreading negativity in so many ways. Maybe…just maybe…if enough of us try, we could become the next news item. We could begin a surge of POSITIVITY.

I think it’s worth a try. Don’t YOU? That sure would make for a much pleasanter world.

Mentors in the Written Word

Many years ago I read several books that were written by Thomas A. Dooley, M.D. I remember being very moved by them, and I have carried them in my thoughts over the years. Still, when I would really ponder WHY they left such an impression, or what I was meant to do with whatever I’d learned from them, I would come up empty, merely puzzled.

Tom Dooley was a U.S. Navy medical doctor who, in the 1950’s, treated hundreds of thousands of Laotians who were escaping the cruel rule of North Vietnamese communists and the torture that was often inflicted upon them. Amid all manner of hardships, this man extended humanity to men, women and children, with little thought or care for himself.

I just finished rereading Deliver Us from Evil, his first book. The Edge of Tomorrow, The Night They Burned the Mountain, and Before I Sleep are equally spellbinding.

I believe the books are out of print now, and must be hunted down, but they are well worth the read if you can locate them. Having never had in my life a person I would have considered a mentor following my father’s death, I think now that these books may have served to instill some of the seeds of inspiration that a warm body might otherwise have done. Now, years later, I realize that I am drawn to people who exhibit similar qualities – selflessness, compassion, and perseverance.

Doug Tjapkes, founder of Humanity for Prisoners, an advocacy organization in Michigan, is one of these people. He wrote a book called Sweet Freedom. In it he tells of his friendship with Maurice Carter who spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit – another fascinating read.

A description of inspirational books that were written from prison can be found in the article entitled “Top 10 Books Written Behind Bars (

Whether the stories are about disease-ridden, tortured masses escaping to freedom, the development of a powerful friendship with a man wrongly accused, or the personal hell of hate and anger in which too many of us find our souls imprisoned, well-told stories can often be the key to unlocking the treasures of selflessness, compassion, and perseverance. They may lead to journeys beyond that which you had ever imagined.

~ A Review of The Prisoner’s Prayer Book

The Prisoner’s Prayer Book by Louise Ann Sipes Reichert-reviewed by Tyler Tichelaar, April 2012, Marquette Monthly

Louise Reichert, a Detroit native and Marquette resident, has had a long career in social services and is retired from Michigan’s Department of Human Services. She is developing a support group for the families of prisoners.

The seed for Reichert’s The Prisoner’s Prayer Book came when she joined a prison ministry that took her into one of Michigan’s oldest prisons, joining Level 5 prisoners for prayer. Discovering that many of the prisoners had difficulty reading and that they wanted to pray, she began writing prayers for them. She realized the importance of prayer for prisoners and states in the book, “I met men who were eager for the merest connection of a handshake. No matter their outer bravado, I saw men who feared there was no one ‘out there’ who cared if they lived or died.”

Reichert wrote The Prisoner’s Prayer Book as a series of conversations with God, from the prisoner’s perspective. The prayers are for prisoners, the illustrations are by prisoners, and the book is intended for anyone involved with prisoners.

Each prayer reads a lot like a poem and is one page long. The prayers are divided into six sections, each with an accompanying illustration: We All Have Needs, He’s Still My Brother, I’m Blessed in Spite of It All, Recognizing the Past, Moving On, and Knowing Whom to Trust. A foreword by Doug Tjapkes, founder of Humanity for Prisoners, addresses the major question this book asks, “Does Jesus care?”

I did not know what to expect from this book, but I found it insightful and heart-wrenching. It revealed that people in prison are not that different from those of us on the outside. We all have similar feelings, make mistakes we regret, and have basic needs for human contact, touch and affection. Some of the themes in the book include being in prison when you are innocent, no one caring whether I live or die, dealing with addiction, becoming addicted to God, aging, facing death in prison, fear of going before the parole board, and how to cope with reentering the real world.

The prayers are heartfelt and moving, including requests to God to let the prisoner’s life be worth something, to help him be there for others in prison who need him, and wondering whether, in cases when a prisoner is innocent, he is in prison for himself or so God can use him to help another.

I imagine this book has a limited audience and many people will be resistant to reading it, but Louise’s prayers remind us that Jesus spoke even to murderers. Reading The Prisoner’s Prayer Book will be an experience in compassion and understanding for those willing to take the journey.

You can visit Louise Reichert at:

A support group for family and friends of current or past incarcerated persons meets every second and fourth Thursday at Catholic Charities, 347 Rock Street, Marquette. For more information, call 227-9119.