Prayers of grief

Pleas for mercy and aid Laments and mourningRest for the dead and the sufferingComfort and solaceFear***To Allah we belong and to him we shall return. Oh Allah, help me in my calamity and replace it with good.

–Muslim prayer

***My eyes fail with watching for thy promise;

I ask, “When wilt thou comfort me?”
–Psalm 119

***These two things have befallen you —

who will condole with you? —
devastation and destruction, famine and sword;
who will comfort you?
–Isaiah 51

***Comfort, give comfort to my people.

–Isaiah 40

Laments of mourning and afflictionI grieved for my friend or my brother;

I went about as one who laments his mother,
bowed down and in mourning.
–Psalm 35

***I weep and lament when I behold our beauty created in the likeness of God lying in the tomb disfigured, bereft of glory and form. 0 the marvel of it! What is this mystery concerning us? Why have we been delivered to corruption? Why have we been wedded unto death?

–Orthodox Funeral Hymn

***It is as if the sun and the moon have left the sky.

–The Buddha

***Oh, only for so short a while you

have loaned us to each other,
because we take form in your act of drawing us,
and we take life in your painting us,
and we breathe in your singing us.
But only for so short a while
have you loaned us to each other.
Because even a drawing cut in obsidian fades,
and the green feathers, the crown feathers,
of the Quetzal bird lose their color,
and even the sounds of the waterfall
die out in the dry season.
So, we too, because only for a short while
have you loaned us to each other.
–Aztec Indian Prayer

***By the waters of Babylon

we sat down and wept.
–Psalm 137

***But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.

–John 20

***This is the Hour of Lead —

Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons–recollect the Snow —
First — Chill — Then Stupor — then the letting go.
–Emily Dickinson

Pleas for mercy and aid | Laments of mourning and affliction |Rest for the dead and the suffering | Comfort and strength | Fear

Repose for the dead, rest for the sufferingAnd in Christ are blessed all those who look to him at the point of death; those who die suddenly or violently; all who mourn the death of a loved one; and those for whom the process of dying is fearful. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

–Jesuit Prayer to the Mother of God

***When wandering alone, parted from loving friends; When the shapes of one’s empty thought-forms dawn upon one here, may the Buddhas, exercising the power of their divine compassion, let there be neither awe nor terror in the bardo .

–The Tibetan Book of the Dead

*** O Allah, ease upon him his matters, and make light for him whatever comes hereafter, and honor him with Your meeting and make that which he has gone to better than that which he came out from.

–Muslim funeral prayer

***Yit-gadal v’yit-kadash sh’may raba b’alma dee-v’ra che-ru-tay, ve’yam-lich mal-chutay b’chai-yay-chon uv’yo-may-chon uv-cha-yay d’chol beit Yisrael, ba-agala u’vitze-man ka-riv, ve’imru amen. Y’hay sh’may raba me’varach le-alam uleh-almay alma-ya.

Yit-barach v’yish-tabach, v’yit-pa-ar v’yit-romam v’yit-nasay, v’yit-hadar v’yit-aleh v’yit-halal sh’may d’koo-d’shah, b’rich hoo. layla (ool-ayla)* meen kol beer-chata v’she-rata, toosh-b’chata v’nay-ch’mata, da-a meran b’alma, ve’imru amen.

Y’hay sh’lama raba meen sh’maya v’cha-yim aleynu v’al kol Yisrael, ve’imru amen.

O’seh shalom beem-romav, hoo ya’ah-seh shalom aleynu v’al kol Yisrael, ve’imru amen.

–from the Jewish Kaddish for Mourners

***If we have died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with him.

–Romans 6

***From the earth did We

Create you, and into it
Shall We return you
And from it shall We
Bring you out once again.
–Surah Ta-Ha (Muslim)

***Saints of God, come to their aid;

Come to meet them, angels of the Lord.
Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
–Roman Catholic prayers for the dead

***Mother of waters,

Father of rain,
You have taken back your own.
As a stream flows into a river,
as a river flows into the sea,may (his) spirit flow
to the waters of healing,
to the waters of rebirth.
–Pagan Book of Living and Dying

***O God of spirits and of all flesh, who has trampled down Death and made powerless the Devil, and given life to the world; do Thou, the same Lord, give rest to the souls of Thy departed servants in a place of brightness, a place of verdure, a place of repose, whence all sickness, sorrow, and sighing have fled away.

–Eastern Orthodox Trisagion for the Dead

***Exalted, compassionate God, grant perfect peace in Your shelteringPresence, among the holy and the pure who shine with the splendorof the firmament, to the soul of our dear one who has goneto his eternal home. May his soul be bound up in the bond of life.The Lord is his portion. May he rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.

–El Malei Rachamim, Jewish Prayer for the Departed

Comfort, solace, and strengthBlessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted.

–Matthew 5

***The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
–Psalm 23

***Hold on to what is good

even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is a tree which stands by itself
Hold onto what you must do
even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life
even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand
even when I have gone away from you.
–Native American Prayer

***Blest be the Lord, the God of mercy, the God who saves.

I shall not fear the dark of night
Nor the arrow that flies by day.
I need not shrink before the terrors of the night,
Nor stand alone before the light of day.
No harm shall come to me, no arrow strike me down,
No evil settle in my soul.
–Folk song based on Psalm 91

***Om Sarve Bhavanthu Sukhina

Sarve Santhu Nira Maya
Sarve Bhadrani Pashyanthu
Ma Kashchith Dukkha Bhaag Bhaveth

–Hindu mantra

***Mother of God, Light in all darkness, shelter Him, our flame of hope, in your tender hands. And in our times of dread and nightmares, Let him be our dream of comfort. And in our times of physical pain and suffering, let Him be our healer. And in our times of separation from God and one another, let him be our communion.

–Roman Catholic Prayer

***In spite of everything, I still believethat people are really good at heart.

–Anne Frank

***The Lord is my light and my salvation;

Whom shall I fear?
In the time of trouble, he shall hide me;
Whom shall I fear?
–Spiritual based on Psalm 27

***Christ is risen from the dead,

by death trampling upon Death,
and has bestowed life
to those in the tombs.
–Eastern Orthodox Paschal Hymn

***May all be free from sorrow,

and the causes of sorrow,
May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless.
–Buddhist prayer

***I lift up my eyes to the hills–from where will my help come?

My help comes from the Lord.
–Psalm 121

***Blessed be the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort others.

–2 Corinthians 1

***Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not…
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
–John Donne

***Violence shall no more be heard in your land,

devastation or destruction within your borders;
you shall call your walls Salvation,
and your gates Praise.
–Isaiah 60

***As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.

–Isaiah 66

***Be not afraid; I go before you always.

–St. Louis Jesuits

***We shall overcome

We are not afraid
We are not alone
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day
–Negro spiritual/Martin Luther King Jr.

***The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.
–“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

***The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

–Job 1

Wisdom about fearBlessed be the Lord,

for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was beset as a city under siege.
I had said in my alarm,
“I am driven far from your sight.”

But you heard my supplications

when I cried out to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you his saints.
The Lord preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.
–Psalm 31

***”Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.”

–Matthew 10:24-33

***The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.

–Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

***Whosoever submits his will to God, while doing good, his wage is with hisLord, and no fear shall be upon them, neither shall they sorrow.

–Qur’an 2:112

***In paradise there is fear;

Thou art not there, nor shrinks one from old age.
Hunger and thirst, these two transcending,
Sorrow, surpassing, a man makes merry in paradise.
–Katha Upanishad

Perfect love casts out fear.

–John 4:18


A friendship ends. A family member dies. A child leaves for college. A diagnosis shatters the sense of health and vitality. A revered mentor succumbs to scandal.

Loss comes in many forms, but it comes to all of us, and it comes repeatedly. It can be debilitating, particularly when one loss follows another, as often happens. It can be surprising; a financial setback may move us to tears and make us wonder why we are so affected. It can even be perplexing; a “mixed blessing,” such as a beautiful wedding, may leave us strangely sad, because a child is growing up and moving on (and out, presumably), and we may even feel guilty because, well, it’s a “happy occasion,” right?

“If we can get Guideposts inspirational stories into the hands of people who may not have a devotional life, they can share the true-life stories of how God works in the world. The joy of Guideposts is their free, donated magazines to my hospital.         –Rob C.,  Director of Pastoral Care.

prayers of grief

Loss always produces grief, and grief begs to be expressed. And the Bible can teach us how valuable prayer is in the grieving process, and even equip us to grieve well. 

Since psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s influential work in the book, On Death and Dying, identified five stages of grief, many people have been helped by the knowledge that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and (eventually) acceptance are all part of a healthy response to loss. Both those who feel sorrow and those who mourn with them can fulfill Jesus’ words (“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” Matthew 5:3, NIV) by praying through the five stages of grief, with the help of such biblical prayers as the following: 


My heart is in anguish within me;

    the terrors of death have fallen on me.

Fear and trembling have beset me;

    horror has overwhelmed me.

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

    I would fly away and be at rest.

I would flee far away

    and stay in the desert;

I would hurry to my place of shelter,

    far from the tempest and storm” (Psalm 55:4-7, NIV).


I cannot keep from speaking.

    I must express my anguish.

    My bitter soul must complain.

Am I a sea monster or a dragon

    that you must place me under guard?

I think, ‘My bed will comfort me,

    and sleep will ease my misery,’

but then you shatter me with dreams

    and terrify me with visions.

I would rather be strangled—

    rather die than suffer like this.

I hate my life and don’t want to go on living.

    Oh, leave me alone for my few remaining days.

What are people, that you should make so much of us,

    that you should think of us so often?

For you examine us every morning

    and test us every moment.

Why won’t you leave me alone,

    at least long enough for me to swallow!

If I have sinned, what have I done to you,

    O watcher of all humanity?

Why make me your target?

    Am I a burden to you?

Why not just forgive my sin

    and take away my guilt?

For soon I will lie down in the dust and die.

    When you look for me, I will be gone (Job 7:11-21, NLT).


“Abba, Father… everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36, NIV).


Save me, O God!

    For the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire,

    where there is no foothold;

I have come into deep waters,

    and the flood sweeps over me.

I am weary with my crying out;

    my throat is parched.

My eyes grow dim

    with waiting for my God….

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.

    At an acceptable time, O God,

    in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Deliver me

    from sinking in the mire;

let me be delivered from my enemies

    and from the deep waters.

Let not the flood sweep over me,

    or the deep swallow me up,

    or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;

    according to your abundant mercy, turn to me (Psalm 69:1-3, 13-16, ESV).


Though the fig tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

    and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

    and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

    he enables me to tread on the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV).

Obviously, these are not the only Bible prayers that can help with the grieving process. In fact, Job and Lamentations are excellent resources for praying through the early stages of grief, and the Psalms are incomparable for praying in and through every stage, not only of grief, but of every human emotion and experience. But the above prayers can help the grieving heart to make a start, along with the precious promise that “God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans” (Romans 8:26, The Message).

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