Prayer for death in the family

by Denise (CA)

Please pray for my family. I love them, they mean the world to me. Pray for health, strength, and help their faith grow stronger and stronger each day. We are going through difficult moments in life. We lost our home, we went from house to house were people humiliated us and we received terrible treatment.

We are not doing so well right now we recently got in two car accidents. I been through a lot I gave up so many things to be with God.I am struggling right now in school because soon I will graduate. Please pray for me and my family. I want all our dreams and wishes to come true. My dream is to become a great actress but not for the wrong reasons.

I want to help people, including my family. I love acting and I want that dream of mine to come true to also help my church..!Please pray for my family and I! I would really appreciate this a lot! I thank you!!! Have a wonderful day! God Bless you people!

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The Church prays for the dead, and this prayer says much about the reality of the Church itself. It says that the Church continues to live in the hope of eternal life. Prayer for the dead is almost a battle with the reality of death and destruction that weighs down upon the earthly existence of man. This is and remains a particular revelation of the Resurrection. In this prayer Christ himself bears witness to the life and immortality to which God calls every human being.

Gathering in the Presence of the Body

When the family first gathers around the body, before or after it is prepared for burial, all or some of the following prayers may be used. It is most fitting that family members take part in preparing the body for burial.

All make the Sign of the Cross:  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
R. Amen.

Then one member of the family reads:

My brothers and sisters, Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

The body may then be sprinkled with holy water.

The Lord God lives in his holy temple
yet abides in our midst.
Since in Baptism N. became God’s temple,
and the spirit of God lived in him (her),
with reverence we bless his (her) mortal body.

Then one member of the family may say:

With God there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
Let us pray as Jesus taught us:  Our Father.

Then this prayer is said:  Into your hands, O Lord,
we humbly entrust our brother (sister) N.
In this life you embraced him (her)
with your tender love;
deliver him (her) now from every evil
and bid him (her) enter eternal rest.
The old order has passed away:
welcome him (her), then, into paradise,
where there will be no sorrow,
no weeping or pain,
but the fullness of peace and joy
with your Son and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

All may sign the forehead of the deceased with the Sign of the Cross. One member of the family says:

Blessed are those who have died in the Lord;
let them rest from their labors,
for their good deeds go with them.

V. Eternal rest grant unto him (her), O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon him (her).

V. May he (she) rest in peace.
R. Amen.

V. May his (her) soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

All make the Sign of the Cross as one member of the family says:

May the love of God and the peace
of the Lord Jesus Christ
bless and console us
and gently wipe every tear from our eyes:
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
R. Amen.

Lord Jesus, our Redeemer,
you willingly gave yourself up to death,
so that all people might be saved
and pass from death into a new life.
Listen to our prayers;
look with love on your people
who mourn and pray for their brother (sister).

Lord Jesus, holy and compassionate,
forgive N. his (her) sins.
By dying you opened the gates of life
for those who believe in you:
do not let our brother (sister) be parted from you,
but by your glorious power
give him (her) light, joy, and peace in heaven,
where you live for ever and ever.  
R. Amen.

Prayers at the Graveside

Aside from the time of mourning, the month of November, including especially All Saints’ day and All Souls’ day, is a traditional time for visiting graves, as is the anniversary of death. Some or all of the following prayers may be used at the graveside of a family member or friend.

All make the Sign of the Cross. The leader begins:

Praise be to God our Father, who raised Jesus
Christ from the dead. Blessed be God for ever.

All respond:

Blessed be God for ever.

The following Scripture text may be read:  2 Cor 5: 1

We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.

After a time of silence, all join in prayers of intercession, or in one of the litanies or other prayers. All then join hands for the Lord’s Prayer:  Our Father.

Then the leader prays:

Lord God,
whose days are without end
and whose mercies are beyond counting,
keep us mindful that life is short and the hour of death is unknown.
Let your Spirit guide our days on earth
in the ways of holiness and justice,
that we may serve you in union with the whole Church,
sure in faith, strong in hope, perfected in love.
And when our earthly journey is ended,
lead us rejoicing into your kingdom,
where you live for ever and ever. 
R. Amen.

or:

Lord Jesus Christ,
by your own three days in the tomb,
you hallowed the graves of all who believe in you
and so made the grave a sign of hope
that promises resurrection,
even as it claims our mortal bodies.
Grant that our brother (sister) N.
may sleep here in peace
until you awaken him (her) to glory,
for you are the resurrection and the life.
Then he (she) will see you face to face
and in your light will see light
and know the splendor of God,
for you live and reign for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.

V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.

V. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

All make the Sign of the Cross as the leader concludes:

May the peace of God,
which is beyond all understanding,
keep our hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God
and of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
R. Amen.

Additional Prayers for the Dead

V. Do not remember my sins, O Lord,
R. When you come to judge the world by fire.

V. Direct my way in your sight, O Lord, my God,
R. When you come to judge the world by fire.

V. Give him (her) eternal rest, O Lord, and may your light shine on him (her) for ever,
R. When you come to judge the world by fire,

V. Lord, have mercy,
R. Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.

All : Our Father . . . trespass against us.

V. And lead us not into temptation,
R. But deliver us from evil.

V. From the gates of hell,
R. Deliver his (her) soul, O Lord.

V. May he (she) rest in peace.
R. Amen.

V. Lord, hear my prayer,
R. And let my cry come to you.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.

Let us pray. 
Lord, welcome into your presence your son (daughter) N., whom you have called from this life. Release him (her) from all his (her) sins; bless him (her) with eternal light and peace; raise him (her) up to live for ever with all your saints in the glory of the Resurrection.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

For a parent:

Let us pray.
Almighty God, you command us to honor father and mother. In your mercy forgive the sins of my (our) parents and let me (us) one day see him (her) again in the radiance of eternal joy.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

For a brother or sister:

Let us pray.
God, our Maker and Redeemer, in your mercy hear my (our) prayer. Grant forgiveness and peace to my (our) brother (sister) N. and N., who longed for your mercy.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

V. Give him (her) eternal rest, O Lord.
R. And may your light shine on him (her) for ever.

V. May he (she) rest in peace.
R. Amen.

V. May his (her) soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

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“Where do we find any evidence that praying for the dead is a biblical? From what I have read it appears that the Bible almost says the opposite of this in Ezekiel Chapter 18. Sure, Ezekiel was talking to Israel prior to the New Covenant that we have in Christ, but it says at the start of the chapter that this came from the word of the LORD and it seems consistent with Romans 2:3-9.

What does the Bible Say?

First, let me point out that neither of the passages cited address the question of praying for the dead.

The point of Ezekiel 18 is that a son is neither saved nor condemned because of the righteousness or the sins of his father, and neither is a father saved or condemned because of his son. Also, past righteous will not save a man who falls into sin, nor will past sin condemn a man who turns from his sin. The passage is not about prayers for the dead.

The point of Romans 2:3-9 is that everyone will be judged according to his works. This has nothing to do with prayers for the dead either, unless you assume that we believe that by praying for the dead we could pray an impenitent sinner into heaven, but we do not believe that.

There are, however, passages of Scripture that do address this question. 2nd Maccabees is not in most Protestant Bibles, but it was included in the 1611 King James Bible, and has been considered to be part of Scripture by the Church since the time of the Apostles (see Canon 85 of the Holy Apostles) — and in 2nd Maccabees 12:38-45 we find a very clear example of prayer for the dead.

In the Wisdom of Sirach (which is also listed among Scripture by the Canon 85 of the Apostles), it says: “Give graciously to all the living; do not withhold kindness even from the dead” (Sirach 7:33).

And in 2 Timothy 1:16-18, St. Paul is praying for Onesiphorus, who obviously is no longer among the living:

“The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.”

Jewish Tradition

The text from Second Maccabees that has already been cited is clear evidence that this was the Jewish custom well before the time of Christ, but is also a fact that the Jews continue to pray for the dead. So if prayers for the dead were some pagan corruption that crept into the Church, one has to wonder how it also crept into Judaism… especially when this would have to have happened before the the time of Christ.

Christian Tradition

When I first began to seriously consider becoming Orthodox, prayers for the dead were on my list of about 5 issues that had to be resolved, but it was also one of the first issues to be scratched off that list, because the evidence that the early Church prayed for the dead is far too ubiquitous to allow one to doubt it. You find it in the earliest texts of the Liturgy. You find it passing comments made by the earliest writers of the Church. You also find them in the catacombs. For example, we have the Epitaph of Abercius, Bishop of Hieropolis, who reposed in 167 A.D., in which he asks for those who read the epitaph to pray for him. When St. Augustine’s pious mother was departing this life, her last request was: “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be” (Confessions 9:27). And quotation upon quotation could be multiplied along these lines.

Prior to the Protestant Reformation, there weren’t any Christians, anywhere, who did not have the custom of praying for the dead.

Conclusion

I remember hearing the story of an Anglican priest who had adamantly opposed prayers for the dead any time the issue was raised, and then after his wife’s death he ceased to speak up on the matter, and was asked about it. He said that he had prayed for his wife every day, since he had met her, and could not bring himself to stop after her death. Prayer for the dead is a way the living show their love for dead. We also believe that prayers the dead are of some benefit to them, but exactly how these prayers benefit them is not something that the Church has precisely defined. If someone dies in a state of repentance, but without having had a chance to bring forth all the fruits of repentance, we believe that they are not ready to enter immediately into the presence of God, but that at some point, through the prayers of the Church, they will be. If someone dies in a state of impenitence, while our prayers are of some benefit to them, those prayers cannot make them worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. But in either case, by praying for the dead, we strengthen our own faith, and come to better entrust our loved ones to God’s mercy.

Update:

For those who want further proof that the Church does not believe that those who die in a state of unrepentance can be prayed out of hell, consider the following:

St. John of Damascus wrote that those who have departed, unrepentant, and with “an evil life” cannot change their destination from hell to heaven by the prayers of anyone (“On Those Who Have Fallen Asleep in Faith, 21 PG 95,268BC, referenced in “The Mystery of Death,” by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis, p. 432. St. John Chrysostom likewise speaks of those who are where it is not possible to receive cleansing, and who are outside of the Kingdom of God, but who may receive some consolation by our prayers (Homily “On Not Mourning Bitterly Over the Dead”, PG 60,888-889, referenced in “The Mystery of Death, p. 432-434),

And St. Mark of Ephesus states in his “First Homily, Refuting the Latin Chapters Concerning Purgatorial Fire”:

“But we have received that even the souls which are held in hell are already given over to eternal torments, whether in actual fact and experience or in hopeless expectation of such, as can be aided and given a certain small help, although not in the sense of completely loosing them from torment or giving hope for a final deliverance. And this is shown from the words of the great Macarius the Egyptian ascetic who, finding a skull in the desert, was instructed by it concerning this by the action of Diving Power. And Basil the Great, in the prayers read at Pentecost, writes literally the following: “Who also, on this all-perfect and saving feast, art graciously pleased to accept propitiatory prayers for those who are imprisoned in hades, granting us a great hope of improvement for those who are imprisoned from the defilements which have imprisoned them, and that Thou wilt send down Thy consolation” (Third Kneeling Prayer at Vespers). But if souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which — even though they have repented over them — they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definite punishment in some place (for this, as we have aid, has not at all been handed down to us). But some must be cleansed in the very departure from the body, thanks only to fear, as St. Gregory the Dialogist literally shows; while others must be cleansed after the departure from the body, either while remaining in the same earthly place, before they come to worship God and are honored with the lot of the blessed, or — if their sins were more serious and bind them for a longer duration — they are kept in hades, but not in order to remain forever in fire and torment, but as it were in prison and confinement under guard. All such ones, we affirm, are helped by the prayers and Liturgies performed for them, with the cooperation of the Divine Goodness and Love for mankind. This Divine cooperation immediately disdains and remits some sins, those committed out of human weakness, as Dionysius the Great (the Areopagite) says in the “Reflections of the Mystery of those Reposed in Faith” (in The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, VII, 7); while other sins, after a certain time, by righteous judgments it either likewise releases and forgives — and that completely — or lightens the responsibility for them until that final Judgment” (see “The Soul After Death”, Appendix I, p. 208f).

Here also is a quote from St. Symeon of Thessalonika’s Liturgical commentary, about commemorations at the Proskomedia:

“And there is no place here for unbelievers, let alone for the heterodox. “For what communion does light have with darkness?” since, scripture says, the angels will separate out the evil from the midst of the just. Therefore it is also not at all right for a priest to make a commemoration of him; neither for a heterodox, or make a commemoration of him neither for those openly sinning and unrepentant. For the offering is to their condemnation, just as it is also for the unrepentant who receive communion of the awe-inspiring mysteries, as the divine Paul says” (St. Symeon of Thessonika, The Liturgical Commentaries, edited and translated by Steven Hawkes-Teeples, (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2001), p. 232f).

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Praying for Peace in the Family

Heavenly Father, I bring my family before You, praying for peace in the family. Jehovah Nissi, Lord my God, my family is struggling and battling with the enemy right now. I pray that You give them strength, Oh Father, allow peace in their lives.

Bless them spiritually so that they will hunger and thirst after You and Your righteousness and they shall be filled. Bless them financially, guard them under Your wings. Protect them against all evil. Cover them with Your precious blood, wash them white as snow.

Heavenly Father, I bring my family before You, praying for peace in the family. Click To Tweet

Colossians 3:15 – And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in harmony. And always be thankful.

Psalms 46:1 –  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Break every chain

Conflict, prejudice, hate, jealousy and pride against one another will vanish at the sound of Your great name. The enemy will flee when he senses Your presence, he will not prevail! Remove pain, suffering, anxiety, worry and fear, in Jesus’ mighty name!

Break every chain that binds them. Release the shackles of their lives so they can live freely to worship and praise Your Holy name.

Read: Prayer for Peace in my Heart

John 14.27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 – May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Tear down the strongholds

Tear down the strongholds that restrict them from knowing You. Help them to realize they can find love, joy, peace, happiness and rest within You and You alone. Set their hearts and minds to focus diligently on You and to seek You persistently.

Remind them that You are always near and they can cast their every burden upon You to find rest. Allow us to execute love and happiness towards one another as we embrace Your gentle spirit. In Jesus’ Holy name I pray, Amen!

Additional Reading, get your copy of: Busy Lives and Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life

Lord my God, my family is struggling with the enemy right now. Give them peace in their lives. Click To Tweet

John 16.33 –  I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Romans 8:6 –  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

prayer for death in the family

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