Sometimes we close our eyes to pray and suddenly feel that we lack the words necessary for the vastly complex and emotionally taxing scenario with which we are confronted. The experience of losing someone is scary and harrowing for loved ones, and in emotionally heightened states we may find ourselves tongue-tied. But when you find the words, with sharing just a few simple thoughts, your prayer can bring comfort and a sense of peace for the person who is dying and may help you in processing their death too.
Praying with the Dying
Prayer is a very sacred and personal thing for many and is not always something that others hope to engage in with you. It is important that the person who is passing away, or the person who is mourning, is comfortable with you praying with them. If they do not wish to engage in prayer with you for any reason, it can suffice to just tell them that they are in your prayers, if you so wish.
Different Types of Prayers for the Dying
There are different prayers you can say depending upon your beliefs. Many people have varying degrees of belief in different religions, so we’ve listed several different types of prayers below.
Additionally, different religions and belief systems have their own traditions and customs for how to handle death, which changes the way they may pray for someone who is passing away.
Catholic prayer for the dying
When the moment of death seems near, these are some prayers that can be said for someone with Catholic beliefs. These prayers may help you and your loved one process what is happening, and your beliefs may also be that prayer will help aid the transition of your loved one’s soul from this earth to the next. If you’d like to make this process even more special, you may ask for a priest to read your loved one his or her last rights.
“Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you,
go forth, faithful Christian,
May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints.”
“Almighty and merciful God, who hast bestowed upon mankind saving remedies and the gift of everlasting life, look graciously upon us Thy servants and comfort the souls which Thou hast made, that, in the hour of their passing, cleansed from all stain of sin, they may deserve to be presented to Thee, their Creator, by the hands of the holy angels. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“O most merciful Jesus, Lover of souls, I pray Thee, by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart, and by the sorrows of Thy Immaculate Mother, cleanse in Thine Own Blood the sinners of the whole world who are now in their agony and to die this day. Amen.
Heart of Jesus, once in agony, have pity on the dying.”
Jewish prayer for the dying
Jewish tradition involves a prayer of confession which should be recited by the rabbi or an elder family member, alongside the person who is nearing death. It is meant to ease anxiety and ask for God’s forgiveness.
This prayer can be said in the last moments.
“Go, for God sends you. Go and God will be with you. The Lord God will be with him/her and he/she will arise. May God bless you and keep you. May God cause His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May God lift up His face toward you, and give you peace. At your right is the angel Michael. At your left is the angel Gavriel. In front of you is the angel Uriel Behind you is the angel Raphael. And above you is the Sh’khinat El, the loving presence of God. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be saddened, for your God is with you wherever you go. God will guard you from all evil; God will guard your soul. God will guard your coming and going, now and forever.”
This prayer can be said in the last days.
“Guide me, Holy One, on this final journey, Your hand pointing the way, Your loving eye upon my face As I seek my new dwelling. Surround me with Your kindness, Embrace me with tranquility; Sooth my fears with the surety of Your care, Even as I release my tears to Your custody. Then shall I find Your eternal gift of peace, Laid out for my notice and my strength. Linger near, Holy One, through these trials, Easing my way as I fly to Your keeping.”
Irish prayer for the dying
There are many Irish poems that are rooted in religion, that can be said as blessings for those who are departing as well as for those who are mourning.
“May the roads rise up to meet you,
May the winds be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
“May you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall –
You do not walk alone.”
Buddhist prayer for the dying
These prayers are described to be silent, to be said in the mind.
“May you be well and happy; if not, may you have a peaceful death and a good rebirth.”
“May this person be freed from all their pain and suffering and completely recover and find new meaning and fulfilment in their life. Or, if that is not possible, then may they be freed of pain and suffering sufficiently to have a peaceful and virtuous death, and be reborn in a Pure Land where they can get enlightened. Or at least may they have a precious human rebirth, meet a spiritual teacher and quickly become enlightened.”
“By this virtue (reciting this prayer), at the instant of death, may you take rebirth in Tushita (a heavenly realm). May you meet the limitless Bodhisattvas and be cared for by Maitreya, our supreme refuge.
Through the fire of great love, the wood of hatred is burnt.
Through the light of pristine awareness, the darkness of ignorance is dispelled. To the Regent of Dharma (Maitreya Buddha) abiding in Tushita, I prostrate.”
Lutheran prayer for the dying
These prayers can be said for those who follow Lutheranism.
“Depart in peace, ransomed soul,
in the name of God the Father almighty who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who
in the name of the Holy Spirit, who sanctified you.
Come now to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the
and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from
this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121:8) Amen.”
“Lord, Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
Regardless of your beliefs, we hope these prayers and intentions bring you some sense of solace.
If you are currently dealing with grief, we encourage you to reach out to a loved one, and read our article about grief for more insight. If you plan to use these prayers in a eulogy or ceremony, then consider reading our article about writing a eulogy.
Death is an inevitability and a mystery of life. On one hand, this can be a painful reality to face, but on the other hand, it means that most people have gone through the same grieving process that you are going through, and you can find a sense of unity and truth in their words.
- A Lutheran Treasury of Prayers, www.lutheranlibrary.org
- Irish Blessings, Prayers, Proverbs, Toasts & Poems, www.appleseeds.org
- How to Help the Very Sick and Dying, www.hayagriva.org.au
- The Final Confession, www.jcfs.org
- More Catholic prayers for the dead and dying, www.artofdyingwell.org
- Prayers for the Dying, www.allaboutprayer.org