I got asked a question at church. What is appropriate to pray when someone has died?
Good question. Here’s part of the answer I gave.
A couple of thoughts …
Firstly, we want to keep on honouring Jesus. Obviously! In this case, we know that the gospel of Jesus saves, and we are called to respond in repentance and faith. Beyond death that is no longer possible (it is appointed for man to die once and then the judgement, Hebrews 9:27). So we can’t pray in a way that suggests there’s ‘another chance’ beyond the grave. And certainly not that anyone else can effect a difference (Mary, the Saints, the prayers of a minister, …).
So when someone has died, I like to give thanks for them – their character and gifts, achievements, the love they showed and experienced, etc. All these good things were from God, so thanksgiving fits. With regard to the asking side of prayer, I ask for God to intercede in the lives of us. That’s family, friends, mourners. It’s good to ask God to comfort, especially to comfort by granting us faith in Jesus who has conquered death.
Secondly, it’s essential to be aware of the pastoral situation. What if a distraught parent weeping at the sudden death of a child says, ‘Please pray for her’? It’s not the time to have subtle theological discussion. Just say yes, and pray. In my case, I’d still pray along the lines sketched out above.
I did not realise this until now, but I guess the two parts of this answer are: love God, love your neighbour.
Any further ideas and reflections?