With the annual commemoration of All Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2), we will once more gather in prayer for those we love but see no more. This practice is but one expression of the healing power of prayer for all the members of Christ’s Body the Church—in this world and the next.
The Catechism makes this statement about prayer for the dead: “We pray for them, because we still hold them in our love, and because we trust that in God’s presence those who have chosen to serve him will grow in his love, until they see him as he is.” (BCP. p. 862) Properly understood, prayer for the dead is a normal part of our faith and is found at every Eucharist and many intercession forms in both public and private prayer.
Our grieving often passes through many stages, including sometimes difficult ones; true prayer helps us deal with this in faith. Sometimes, we can have very complex relationships with someone who has passed, and prayer provides a place to work through these struggles, especially that of forgiveness. At other times, we simply want to thank God for a soul we have loved.
One of the classic ways to for believers to both affirm the Communion of Saints and to apply this teaching to our own personal experience is through the Nine Days Service of Prayer for the Dead. Like all such nine-day periods of prayer, the biblical warrant comes from nine days of prayer the Apostles’ offered between Christ’s Ascension and the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1-2). In a sense, this practice is an acknowledgement that a major change has occurred and then taking that change to God in prayer, becoming open to further direction and clarity.
The following prayers come from the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book (revised). They may be used in the period immediately after a death, or at other times when feeling led by God to offer your mourning in prayer. As with all grieving, you are invited to speak with your parish priest if you desire.
V. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.
R. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
V. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
R. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
V. Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord;
R. And let light perpetual shine upon them.
Then say the prayer appropriate for the day (see below).
O God, you are full of mercy and ready to forgive; receive our prayers for the soul of your servant N., whom you have now called to depart out of this world: deliver him out of the hand of the enemy, hold him in everlasting remembrance, and command your holy angels to receive him and bring him into paradise: that as his hope and faith were in you, he may without fear or suffering enter the joys of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
To you, O Lord, I commend the soul of your servant N., that being dead to the world, he may live to you; and whatever sins he has committed, through the frailty of our mortal nature, graciously wash away by the pardon of your most merciful living kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, your mercies are more than we can know; hear my prayer for N. and welcome him into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of all your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hear the prayer I bring before you, O Lord, that the soul of your servant, which you have called to depart this life, may find a place in the eternal dwelling places of peace and light and be welcomed into the fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grant us, who mourn, grace that we may entrust N. to your never-failing love; receive him into the arms of your mercy, and remember him according to the steadfast loving-kindness you show toward your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Of the abundance of your loving-kindness, O Lord, have mercy upon the soul of your servant N. and, now that he is released from the weakness of mortality, restore him and give him a place in your everlasting salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grant, O Lord, that N,. for whom I pray, may know the companionship of your blessed ones in heaven, and that we who mourn may be comforted and supported in the same blessed fellowship of love and prayer until we too come to our journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O Lord, our Savior and our Judge, by your passion and through your never-failing mercies, grant forgiveness to N. for all his sins, and rest from all the burdens he has carried; and by your Spirit, bring us all to acknowledge our sins that we may seek your forgiveness, and make us patient and joyful to forgive one another for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I give you thanks, O Lord, that you have created us to know and love you, and to live with each other in joyful companionship. In grief, strengthen my hope, and in sorrow, keep me from despair. Grant that N. may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service, and that I may so serve you here, that at the last, by your call, I will stand before you and with those whom I have loved but see no longer; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
After the day’s prayer, say the Lord’s Prayer and this concluding sentence
+ May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercies of God, rest in peace. Amen.