As a pastor’s wife for over 22 years, my husband has conducted many funerals. At a funeral, he normally does a short sermon and allows the loved ones who are grieving to share special memories of their loved one.
One other aspect that he never leaves out is prayer. Although the audience for funerals can be both believers and non-believers, both can benefit from incorporating prayer in the funeral. Here are four reasons why we pray at funerals:
The most important thing people need when they are grieving is comfort. Many scriptures communicate a hope that grieving loved ones will see their loved one again. Embracing this belief gives people hope that their loved one is in heaven.
Prayers of comfort also help people understand better who God is. Atheists and agnostics who can’t fathom a distant God can get to know him a bit more through the scriptures. Sometimes pastors will give a message asking people to accept Jesus so that they can understand this reality.
Grief is almost always paired with deep sadness. When people feel like there’s no hope for their lives, they want to be encouraged that God has not forgotten them.
Even if they have trouble publicly declaring there is a God, the scriptures can give the loved one encouragement during times of deep despair and regret.
Many people regret they didn’t spend enough time with the person who has passed away. People can be greatly encouraged to know that they are never alone and that God is with them and sees everything they are doing.
He is omniscient and knows all. This keeps people encouraged that God is still in control even when the situation feels uncontrollable.
Prayer is a tool to help us communicate with God. We can communicate with God both in prayer with God and also in our listening. When we take time to be silent before God, there are times when we will feel God is speaking to us.
People who pray feel as though they are communicating straight with God. Even if they don’t receive the result they wanted, pray, and ask God for his help to get through the deep sadness and grief.
This is a way for people to control their grief and hand over all their burdens to God. Communication also gives people a sense of peace when they know their loved one is in a better place.
Praying at funerals also gives people hope. When a pastor praise on behalf of the family, it makes them feel like they’re not alone. It makes them feel as though their local church or Christian friends will be there when they need them the most.
It also communicates that even on their worst days, there’s hope that God will use their situation for good and not waste their pain.
If you are asked to participate in the funeral of a loved one, here are some scriptures to comfort other loved ones who are grieving. The following verses are the most common in Scripture that clergy use when they want to pray:
TheLord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).
I know that my redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand on the earth (Job 19:24).
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).
Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low (Psalm 46:1).
The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him! (Psalm 64:10).
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:1-2).
Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low (Isaiah 26:2-5).
Funerals can sometimes be awkward, especially for people who, steeped in their grief, have trouble expressing their loss. Their friends and loved ones no there’s nothing that they can do, so they often come to the funeral to show their support.
Although funerals are not a happy occasion, the scriptures and prayers that are used throughout a funeral can provide hope, encouragement, and comfort to those who are in grief. Have these scriptures on hand and write them in a card to give to the loved one.
They may not be able to express their gratitude amidst all the attention they receive from many family members, but they will be able to look back on that card and be encouraged to know that they may see their loved one again. Funerals are also a good way to bring the gospel message to those who are unbelievers.
With this shift in perspective, come equipped with verses that will bring comfort and hope to the people you care about.
It is not necessary to share those verses with grieving loved ones unless they ask, but simply keeping them in your mind in case they are needed can bring instant comfort to those who believe.
By doing this, you’re supporting them even when it feels like you’re doing nothing at all. Volunteer to pray at the funeral and bring the hope of salvation in Christ to those who need him the most.
For further reading:
What Does the Bible Say about Visiting Graves?
Does ‘Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust’ Have Biblical Origin and Meaning?
Does it Matter What We Do with Our Bodies after Death?
What Should I Never Say to Someone Who Is Grieving?
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.