Prayer For Holy Living in This Fallen World
5 Powerful Prayers for Peace Within
Is your heart troubled? Are you feeling the psalmist, who asked his own soul, “Why are you in despair? And why have you become disturbed within me?” One of the hardest parts of knowing peace is understanding how it has nothing to do with control.
If you're having trouble with trust or finding the words to pray above the howling of the scary storms, feel free to offer up these words to the Lord now! Below are 5 of our most favorite prayers to speak when we need God's peace to speak over our heart and mind.
A Prayer for Peace Within
Oh Lord, sometimes my insides feel a battle zone, where missiles are falling too close to home. Other times I'm caught in an endless storm, with thoughts flying control.
Confusion reigns, and defeat creeps in to steal my joy. I need your peace—the deep-down-in-your-heart kind that stays with me day and night and speaks confidently into the wind.
Calm my anxious spirit, Lord; all the attacking “if-onlys” and “what-ifs” fill me with needless worry.I know that trust is a big part of experiencing peace and that fear has no place in my life. Most of the things I worry about or dread don't even happen. So I'm declaring my trust in you.
I'm releasing the reins of my life again and asking you to take control. I may need to pray this same prayer daily, but I'm tired of the frenzy of life that leaves my schedule and my thoughts without any margin.
I need more of you, Lord, and less of me.
I surrender and admit: I can't control people, plans, or even all my circumstances, but I can yield those things to you, and focus on your goodness.
Thank you today for every good gift you've given, every blessing you've sent, all the forgiveness I did not deserve, and, yes, for every trial you've allowed into my life. You bring good every circumstance if I'll only let go and believe you.
I know that when I pray and give thanks instead of worrying, you have promised that I can experience the kind of peace that passes all understanding. That's your kind of peace, Lord. And it's the kind I crave.
Whenever I’m stressed, anxious, or afraid, help me remember to run to you. You're the only one that can calm my fears and end my fretful behavior.
Whether in trivial or heavy matters, I know you will not only give me peace; Lord, you will be my peace.
And when I draw close to you—in prayer, in reading your Word, in helping another, in taking my mind off myself—you will be there, up close and personal.I can't handle these times alone, Lord. Will you speak peace and calm my storms, or hold my hand while we walk through them together? Will you bring the reassuring wisdom of those who have come through similar times into my life? Thank you, Lord. I'm trusting you.
In the name of the One who makes the wind and the waves stand still, Amen. ~ Rebecca Barlow Jordan
A Short Prayer for Peace
Lord, I come before you ready to pour out my worries, anxieties and fears at Your feet. I am claiming and declaring Your promises for blessings of peace and strength over my life. Bring a peace into my soul that passes all worldly understanding and make me a light for others to see Your strength.
A Prayer for Peace of Mind
Almighty God, We bless you for our lives, we give you praise for your abundant mercy and grace we receive. We thank you for your faithfulness even though we are not that faithful to you. Lord Jesus, we ask you to give us all around peace in our mind, body, soul and spirit. We want you to heal and remove everything that is causing stress, grief, and sorrow in our lives.
Please guide our path through life and make our enemies be at peace with us. Let your peace reign in our family, at our place of work, businesses and everything we lay our hands on.
Let your angels of peace go ahead of us when we go out and stay by our side when we return. In Jesus' name, Amen.
A Prayer for Missing Peace
Father God, my heart is filled with chaos and confusion. I feel as if I am drowning in my circumstances and my heart is filled with fear and confusion. I really need the strength and peace that only You can give. Right now, I choose to rest in You. In Jesus' name, Amen. ~ Mary Southerland
A Prayer for Peace When You're Overwhelmed
Lord, when my heart is overwhelmed, overwhelm me with Your peace. Lead me to You, my rock. Guide me to Your Word which gives me strength and refuge. Help me not to run to lesser things. Draw me to run to You first. Help me get into the habit of taking my “overwhelmed” and placing it under your will. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Jennifer Rothschild
A Prayer for the Troubled Heart
Dear God, Our world is hurting and broken. We pray for those who have lost loved ones this week, please comfort them in their grief and loss, cover them with your peace and presence, as only your Spirit can do.
We know that in whatever we face, you are our Peace and Refuge, a very present help in times of trouble. Thank you that you remind us throughout your Word, we do not face the storms alone, but you are always with us. Whispering calm.
Speaking peace. Bringing rest to our souls.
We confess our need for you. We ask you to forgive us for trying to figure everything out on our own, for not trusting that you are more than able and powerful to work on our behalf.
Forgive us for picking back up what we already determined to lay down at your feet.
Give us the ability to trust you more, give us a heart that finds rest in your presence, give us the wisdom to seek peace and pursue it, remembering it’s only to be found in you alone.
Thank you that your yoke is easy and your burden is light. Thank you that you care for us. Thank you that the peace of your loving and strong presence guards and protects our hearts and minds in you.
Thank you that we do not have to walk in fear or live in overwhelmed cycles of worry and stress. Thank you for your voice that breaks through the greatest wind and storm swirling around us, and whispers “Peace, be still.
” Thank you that you sent your One and Only Son to set us free. In the Mighty Name of Jesus, Amen. ~ Debbie McDaniel
A Prayer for Peace in Hard Times
Lord, when my heart is overwhelmed, overwhelm me with Your peace. Lead me to You, my rock. Guide me to Your Word which gives me strength and refuge. Help me not to run to lesser things. Draw me to run to You first. Help me get into the habit of taking my “overwhelmed” and placing it under your will. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Lysa Terkeurst
Lord, how I long to break free from negative thinking and embrace peace and joy and optimism. I invite You to begin transforming my thought patterns and help me recognize, reject and replace thoughts that are not pleasing to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen. ~ Traci Miles
Read more of a Prayer for Peace at Praywithme.com – Calm your mind and relieve anxiety and stress with these prayer words
Bible Verses for Finding Peace
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Peace I leave with you; my peace i give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
More Scripture for Peace
What circumstances do you need God to fill with peace today? Bring your requests to our large praying community in the comments below and being to experience hope and security in God's plan for your life!
Rebecca Barlow Jordan is an inspirational author, speaker, and passionate follower of Jesus who loves to encourage others heart to heart.
She has written 11 books and over 1700 other articles, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. Her daily devotional Daily in Your Presence is available for delivery through Crosswalk.com.
You can find out more about Rebecca at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.
Publication date: October 12, 2015
This article is part of our larger Prayers resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.
Prayer for Healing
Prayer for Strength
Prayer for Protection
Good Night Prayers
A Birthday Prayer
Prayer for Forgiveness
Prayer for Guidance
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Study 5 THE PRAYER FOR DIVINE QUICKENING – Words of Life Ministries
GREAT PRAYERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT by Francis Dixon
Scripture Reference: Psalm 80: 18
The word we shall consider in this study is the word ”quicken” (or “quickening”). It means ”to give life and to preserve life” and ”to be made alive”.
This covers our basic needs, because we need to receive life and to be preserved by life; we need to receive life initially, which takes place at the time of conversion, but we also need to be preserved by life continually, which refers to God’s work of sanctification. From the scriptures we learn two things:-
- (1) The HOLY SPIRIT is the one who GIVES LIFE (quickens) - look up and compare John 6:63 and 2 Peter 3:18.
- (2) The WORD OF GOD is the INSTRUMENT the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish this work - we learn this from many references in the Scriptures and Romans 4:17 and Romans 8:11 illustrate this.
1. It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit quickens us with new life, so that we become partakers of the Divine nature.
Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we are by nature spiritually dead, and that when the miracle of the New Birth takes place we are born again by the quickening work of the Holy Spirit.
We also learn from 1 Peter 1:23 and 2 Peter 1:4 that the Word of God is the instrument used by the Holy Spirit “so that through them you may participate in the divine nature…” ; it is the “seed” of the new life which is dropped into our souls and which makes us “alive to God” (Romans 6:11).
A Christian is one who is born again (John 3:3,6,8), and who receives the new life of the Risen Lord (John 1:12-13).
2. It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit quickens us in our desires to pray and guides our praying.
It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who prompts us to pray, and for an illustration of this turn to Acts 9:9-11.
Immediately after his conversion, and as an evidence that he really had been converted, Saul of Tarsus prayed (verse 11)! This is the first exercise of the new life - look up Luke 18:13. As Christians we are frequently conscious of the Holy Spirit within us urging us to pray.
He leads us to the place of prayer and then He shows us how to pray (Romans 8:26-27). Think how the disciples needed this quickening when they were in Gethsemane – look up Matthew 26:36-44.
3. It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit quickens us when we are in danger of getting slack, dull and careless.
See what Psalm 71:20 says, where the operative word is “again”. The psalmist had fallen and he needed to be lifted up and revived.
It is easy for us to get spiritually touch with the Lord and to become disobedient (Jonah 1:1-3); to deny the Lord (Luke 22:54-62); to turn away from Him (John 6:66); to become carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1-4); to walk in the flesh (Galatians 5:16,25); to allow wrong attitudes (Philippians 4:2); and to become lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16). At such times we need the quickening work of the Holy Spirit to renew our love for the Lord and our determination to please Him.
4. It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit quickens us when we are in bondage and sets us free.
How easy it is to get into bondage to sin (Romans 6:12); to self (Romans 6:16); and to Satan (Luke 22:31)! In Psalm 119:153 the Psalmist prayed, ”Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
” The Lord Jesus Himself, from the Throne, is the great Liberator, as we learn from John 8:36; but He liberates us by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as we learn from Romans 8:2, and the medium through which He works is the Word of God.
5. It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit instructs us in the way of righteousness and enables us to please God.
Many times in Psalm 119 the psalmist prays that God would show him the right way and enable him to walk in that way.
This is exactly what the Holy Spirit does as we turn to God’s Word with the desire to hear Him speaking to us (Psalm 119:18); as we meditate upon what we read (verse 15); as we compare scripture with scripture (Acts 17:11).
This is the only way to discover the kind of life God wants us to live and to receive His enabling to live it.
6. It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit draws us away from worldly living and sets our minds and affections on things above.
How can we be weaned away from worldly living and become absorbed with those things which are glorifying to the Lord? Colossians 3:1-2 will help us. How easy it is for us to live only for this world, and what a tragedy it is when this happens! See 1 John 2:15-17.
7. It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit comforts and sustains us in times of trial and affliction.
Turn to Psalm 119:92-93, where the writer is saying in effect, ‘If God hadn’t quickened me when I was in trouble I would have perished. But God did quicken me, and He did it through His Holy Word.’ At such times we should always turn to the Word of God.
In conclusion, notice again that the Holy Spirit is the one who quickens, but we must do two things: (1) “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18); (2) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Colossians 3:16).
15 Powerful Prayers from the Bible
How do you pray? Prayers that are rooted in Scripture are guaranteed to be aligned with the heart of God. Here is a list of 15 powerful prayers from the Bible that you can use word-for-word or to spur on your own prayers:
Father God, we thank you that your amazing unfathomable love has been poured out for us at the cross and poured into us by the Holy Spirit. We want to taste and experience more of the depth and breadth and length and height of your amazing love. Help us to walk by faith.
Help us to endure in suffering. Help us to own our need of you. Help us to fully embrace your Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. So, pour out your love into our hearts, in increasing measure by the power of your Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is in his name that we pray, Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Father God, we praise you for the wonderful future that you have prepared for us through the death and resurrection of you Son, Jesus Christ. We eagerly await the day when we will enter into your presence for all eternity with holy bodies untainted by sin.
Please help us to not lose heart when we face the many pressures, anxieties, and troubles of life in this fallen world. Let us take great courage in the knowledge that you’ve given us the Holy Spirit to prepare our souls for our kingdom dwelling with you. Thank you for letting Jesus live in us.
It is in his name that we pray, Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
Father God, we praise you for using us to bring joy to your Son, Jesus Christ. In the midst of all the struggles, pressures, and discouragement we face while in our frail, failing bodies, please continue transforming us into servants who are always of good courage.
Lead us by your Holy Spirit to find rest in the grand promises that you’ve revealed to us in your Word. We confess that we are weak and that we need your help. Prepare us for the day when you will judge an account of all our works and offenses.
Though we do not deserve your grace, we cannot even begin to express our gratitude for nailing our guilt and shame upon the cross through your crucified Son. Lord, we earnestly long to experience the moment when you will declare to us, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master.
” Help us this week as we continue our walk of faith looking forward to the day when our faith will become sight. It is in the name of Jesus that we pray, Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:11-13
We praise you God for your infinite wisdom. We know so little, and yet we are so grateful to serve the one who knows all things. We confess that our hearts have been shattered by our sinful desires, and that we have tried to hide our shame from you.
Please forgive us for the ways we’ve slandered other people in our lives. Our hearts are broken and we cannot save ourselves. We thank you for knowing our own hearts better than we do. We thank you for saving us through your Son, Jesus Christ.We thank you for bringing our dead hearts to life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Please guard our hearts from a critical spirit, and help us to not lose heart when we feel pressures leading us into doubt.
Renew our minds and give us confidence with the truth found in the words of the Bible. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that I pray, Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Father God, we praise you for the confidence you give our hearts through the love of your Son. We look forward to the day when we will not pass from this world into condemnation, but instead will enter into your presence of everlasting celebration.
Father, we confess that we are tired of living for ourselves. We thank you for sending Jesus to die in our place to deliver us from the misery of a self-centered life. No matter what struggles, temptations, or tragedies we face this week, please help us not to lose heart.
Through the Holy Spirit, guard us from ever doubting your great love for us. Help us to remember the good news that you have made us your own and that you have forgiven our sins.
Lead us to live our lives for Christ’s sake at our workplaces, with our friends and families, and wherever else we may go this week. We pray all this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Father God, we praise you for making us new creations in Christ! We are grateful for the good news that you do not regard us by our flesh. We are thankful that un us, you know and judge us rightly by our hearts.
We are sorry for the ways that we have let our shallow, worldly judgments of others become barriers to our proclamation of your gospel. Thank you for overcoming our weakness and partiality to bring life to our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Please help us to see people more you do so that we would grow in our boldness to share the gospel with others. We pray all this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Father God we thank you for reconciling us through Jesus Christ, and we praise you for choosing to make redeemed sinners us your gospel ambassadors to this broken world. Please continue to equip us and use us in your redemptive mission as you graciously bring peace to sinners.
Sanctify us for your glory as we confess, repent of, and remember the trespasses that we’ve committed against you. Keep us all humble as we seek reconciliation with other people we’ve wronged.Protect us with the Holy Spirit from our spirit of pride whenever we serve our families, our church, our coworkers, or strangers in need. Though we don’t deserve your forgiveness, we praise you for the unfathomable love and grace that you demonstrate at the cross.
Please nourish our hearts daily this week with the words of the Bible and give us courage to proclaim your gospel boldly to all. We pray all this in the name of Jesus and for his sake. Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:21
Father God we praise you for your perfect righteousness. There is no fairer nor more merciful a judge than you, and we confess that we do not deserve your forgiveness for the sins we’ve committed.
Though we have wronged you, betrayed you, and hated you in so many ways, we thank you for the unbelievable gift of freedom from the power of sin in our lives. Help us to always remember the cost of our freedom and to never forget how Jesus has dealt with our sins at the cross.
Help us to also grow in our awareness of the sins that taint our lives so that we would learn to hate our sins you do. Shine the light of your Holy Spirit into the dark places of our hearts so that we might better know and repent of our sins for your glory.
Thank you so much for reconciling us through the gospel to make us your righteous servants. Use us to proclaim your good news boldly to others this week. We pray all this in the name of Jesus and for his sake, Amen.
Father God, we bow before you, and recognize our great need of a Savior. Today we want to lift our hearts and give thanks for Your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We lift our hearts in praise to our Savior, and as your loved children and your redeemed servants, we lay our lives before you in worship.
Forgive us our sins, guide us by your Spirit into repentance, and make us bold proclaimers of your Word. We pray all this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Father God we praise you for the ultimate gift of love in your Son. What a marvelous light of hope you have given to our dark world. We thank you for fulfilling your law perfectly in Jesus Christ when not one of us could.
We confess that we cannot save ourselves, and we are grateful for the good news of salvation in Christ alone. Please embolden us with the Holy Spirit Elizabeth, Simeon, and the shepherds to bear witness to Jesus.
It is in his name and for his sake that we pray, Amen.
God we thank you for the love and favor you extend to us who believe in Jesus Christ. We confess that we do not deserve your overwhelming grace towards sinners us. We praise you though for choosing to make us new creations through our union in Christ’s death and resurrection. Please turn us from evil thoughts and worldly distractions diverting our attention from you.
Allow the Holy Spirit to open up our eyes to clearly see your revelation in the Bible every day. Help us to learn from the examples of men and women that you have given us in your Word so that we might live more holy lives for your glory. Use your Church here and around the globe to shine brightly for our dark world.
We pray all this in the name of Jesus Christ and for his sake, Amen.
God we praise you for your compassionate heart. Give us the relentlessness of the good shepherd who goes after wandering sheep and never gives up. Protect us by your Holy Spirit from being easily discouraged and grant us the spiritual strength to endure the hardships we face. Please deliver us from a sour compulsive nature to envy others and resist your will.
Save us from a life of pretense and guard us from using religion as a mask to cover up our resistance to the claims of Jesus Christ on our lives. Father God, please help us during the seasons of grief and loss that we may endure to know that your Son lives, and that in him sorrow can never have the final word. We pray all this in the name of Jesus and for his sake, Amen.
Father God we are grateful for all that you’ve lavishly blessed us with through our union with Jesus Christ. We praise you for sealing us as your adopted children and making us rich inheritors of your everlasting kingdom.
We thank you for comforting us in our moments of weakness and tribulation with the assured knowledge that Christ you will raise us to life after death. We glorify you for the success that you have given to the Church as the Holy Spirit leads us to proclaim the good news to every tribe, every tongue, and every nation.Lord, we confess that we have often wasted and squandered your blessings. Please forgive us and help us to invest every blessing we have for your kingdom so that you might use us as blessings to others.
If it be your will, we ask that you help us to win the favor of our family, friends, and co-workers by unashamedly living out our lives for the gospel and the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray all this in his name and for his sake, Amen.
Father God we praise you for your absolute goodness, perfection, and holiness. We thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, who was tempted in every way as we are and yet did not sin. We confess that in our weakness, we have shamefully enjoyed sins of the mind and body that we ought to have resisted.
Please forgive us for our unholy failures. Teach us to truly mourn our offenses against you and lead us by the Holy Spirit into faithful repentance. We are grateful for the overwhelming grace that we continue to experience each day because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Thank you for giving us the power of the Holy Spirit to face future temptations. Continue to sanctify us in our frail bodies as we eagerly await the return of your glorified Son. In a world full of darkness, make us your holy lights and gospel witnesses this week.
It is the name of Jesus Christ and for his sake that we pray, Amen.
Lord, we praise you for your righteousness and perfect judgments, for you are an incorruptible judge far greater than any corruptible government or sinful man. You are infinitely wise, truly knowing the thoughts, intentions, and hearts of every being that you have ever made.
We thank you promising to one day vindicate every lie, every betrayal, and every injustice that your Church endures. Please deliver us from a bitter spirit that so easily becomes resentment and hate when we feel wronged by others. Help us to see your divine purpose and trust in your goodness even in our own suffering and loss.
Forgive us for the times when we suppress the truth of your promises and turn to go our own way. By your Holy Spirit, lead us into repentance, guard us from temptation, and sanctify us for your kingdom work among our family, friends, and co-workers this week.
Teach us more of the love of Christ that goes on loving even when it is slighted. It is the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus that we pray, Amen.
Father God, we praise you for the Holy Spirit who grants us wisdom, fills us with life, guards our hearts, and illuminates our mind to comprehend the good news of Jesus Christ. Let us settle for nothing less than the pure unadulterated truth that you have revealed to us in your Holy Word.
For we confess that apart from you we can do nothing. So please forgive us for the ways in which we have disobeyed your Word to put our own selfish desires before the needs of others. By the Holy Spirit we ask that you lead us into repentance and a life that glorifies you.
Help us to resist the allure of this world’s deceitful philosophies promising hollow pleasures that ultimately lead to death and destruction. Put a deep desire in our hearts to know the wisdom of the Bible and use it to transform and renew our mind.Use each one of us to exemplify your holiness and love to this world as we aspire to follow Jesus and put his commands into action. Make us your gospel lights this week to those wandering in darkness among our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
Embolden us as well as our brothers and sisters across the world to unashamedly proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ. Use our testimonies for your glory to help save souls. All this we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
God we praise you for your unfathomable grace. Though we deserved punishment for our sins, you were lavishly merciful to the world. In love and justice you gathered our iniquities, and you laid them upon your Son so that we might be forgiven. Enable us now by your Holy Spirit to turn from our own way in order to follow the way of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Guard us from conceited, self-righteous acts and from apathetic obedience to your commands. For those of us struggling with a spirit of rebellion, resistance, resentment, or doubt, we pray that you would grant them a spirit of peace. Thank you God for sharing with us your overwhelming victory over death. In the name of Jesus Christ and for his sake we pray, Amen.
Compiled by Colton Tatham is the Student Ministries Pastoral Intern at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church (@theorchardefc) in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Prayers for the Dead in the Bible and in Tradition
“Where do we find any evidence that praying for the dead is a biblical? From what I have read it appears that the Bible almost says the opposite of this in Ezekiel Chapter 18.
Sure, Ezekiel was talking to Israel prior to the New Covenant that we have in Christ, but it says at the start of the chapter that this came from the word of the LORD and it seems consistent with Romans 2:3-9.“
First, let me point out that neither of the passages cited address the question of praying for the dead.
The point of Ezekiel 18 is that a son is neither saved nor condemned because of the righteousness or the sins of his father, and neither is a father saved or condemned because of his son. Also, past righteous will not save a man who falls into sin, nor will past sin condemn a man who turns from his sin. The passage is not about prayers for the dead.
The point of Romans 2:3-9 is that everyone will be judged according to his works. This has nothing to do with prayers for the dead either, unless you assume that we believe that by praying for the dead we could pray an impenitent sinner into heaven, but we do not believe that.
There are, however, passages of Scripture that do address this question. 2nd Maccabees is not in most Protestant Bibles, but it was included in the 1611 King James Bible, and has been considered to be part of Scripture by the Church since the time of the Apostles (see Canon 85 of the Holy Apostles) — and in 2nd Maccabees 12:38-45 we find a very clear example of prayer for the dead.
In the Wisdom of Sirach (which is also listed among Scripture by the Canon 85 of the Apostles), it says: “Give graciously to all the living; do not withhold kindness even from the dead” (Sirach 7:33).
And in 2 Timothy 1:16-18, St. Paul is praying for Onesiphorus, who obviously is no longer among the living:
“The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.”
The text from Second Maccabees that has already been cited is clear evidence that this was the Jewish custom well before the time of Christ, but is also a fact that the Jews continue to pray for the dead.
So if prayers for the dead were some pagan corruption that crept into the Church, one has to wonder how it also crept into Judaism… especially when this would have to have happened before the the time of Christ.
When I first began to seriously consider becoming Orthodox, prayers for the dead were on my list of about 5 issues that had to be resolved, but it was also one of the first issues to be scratched off that list, because the evidence that the early Church prayed for the dead is far too ubiquitous to allow one to doubt it. You find it in the earliest texts of the Liturgy. You find it passing comments made by the earliest writers of the Church. You also find them in the catacombs. For example, we have the Epitaph of Abercius, Bishop of Hieropolis, who reposed in 167 A.D., in which he asks for those who read the epitaph to pray for him. When St. Augustine’s pious mother was departing this life, her last request was: “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be” (Confessions 9:27). And quotation upon quotation could be multiplied along these lines.
Prior to the Protestant Reformation, there weren’t any Christians, anywhere, who did not have the custom of praying for the dead.
I remember hearing the story of an Anglican priest who had adamantly opposed prayers for the dead any time the issue was raised, and then after his wife’s death he ceased to speak up on the matter, and was asked about it. He said that he had prayed for his wife every day, since he had met her, and could not bring himself to stop after her death.
Prayer for the dead is a way the living show their love for dead. We also believe that prayers the dead are of some benefit to them, but exactly how these prayers benefit them is not something that the Church has precisely defined.If someone dies in a state of repentance, but without having had a chance to bring forth all the fruits of repentance, we believe that they are not ready to enter immediately into the presence of God, but that at some point, through the prayers of the Church, they will be.
If someone dies in a state of impenitence, while our prayers are of some benefit to them, those prayers cannot make them worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. But in either case, by praying for the dead, we strengthen our own faith, and come to better entrust our loved ones to God’s mercy.
For those who want further proof that the Church does not believe that those who die in a state of unrepentance can be prayed hell, consider the following:
St. John of Damascus wrote that those who have departed, unrepentant, and with “an evil life” cannot change their destination from hell to heaven by the prayers of anyone (“On Those Who Have Fallen Asleep in Faith, 21 PG 95,268BC, referenced in “The Mystery of Death,” by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis, p. 432.
St. John Chrysostom wise speaks of those who are where it is not possible to receive cleansing, and who are outside of the Kingdom of God, but who may receive some consolation by our prayers (Homily “On Not Mourning Bitterly Over the Dead”, PG 60,888-889, referenced in “The Mystery of Death, p.
And St. Mark of Ephesus states in his “First Homily, Refuting the Latin Chapters Concerning Purgatorial Fire”:
“But we have received that even the souls which are held in hell are already given over to eternal torments, whether in actual fact and experience or in hopeless expectation of such, as can be aided and given a certain small help, although not in the sense of completely loosing them from torment or giving hope for a final deliverance.
And this is shown from the words of the great Macarius the Egyptian ascetic who, finding a skull in the desert, was instructed by it concerning this by the action of Diving Power.
And Basil the Great, in the prayers read at Pentecost, writes literally the following: “Who also, on this all-perfect and saving feast, art graciously pleased to accept propitiatory prayers for those who are imprisoned in hades, granting us a great hope of improvement for those who are imprisoned from the defilements which have imprisoned them, and that Thou wilt send down Thy consolation” (Third Kneeling Prayer at Vespers). But if souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which — even though they have repented over them — they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definite punishment in some place (for this, as we have aid, has not at all been handed down to us). But some must be cleansed in the very departure from the body, thanks only to fear, as St. Gregory the Dialogist literally shows; while others must be cleansed after the departure from the body, either while remaining in the same earthly place, before they come to worship God and are honored with the lot of the blessed, or — if their sins were more serious and bind them for a longer duration — they are kept in hades, but not in order to remain forever in fire and torment, but as it were in prison and confinement under guard. All such ones, we affirm, are helped by the prayers and Liturgies performed for them, with the cooperation of the Divine Goodness and Love for mankind. This Divine cooperation immediately disdains and remits some sins, those committed human weakness, as Dionysius the Great (the Areopagite) says in the “Reflections of the Mystery of those Reposed in Faith” (in The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, VII, 7); while other sins, after a certain time, by righteous judgments it either wise releases and forgives — and that completely — or lightens the responsibility for them until that final Judgment” (see “The Soul After Death”, Appendix I, p. 208f).
Here also is a quote from St. Symeon of Thessalonika’s Liturgical commentary, about commemorations at the Proskomedia:
“And there is no place here [in commemorations at the proskomedia] for unbelievers, let alone for the heterodox. “For what communion does light have with darkness?” since, scripture says, the angels will separate out the evil from the midst of the just.Therefore it is also not at all right for a priest to make a commemoration of him; neither for a heterodox, or make a commemoration of him neither for those openly sinning and unrepentant. For the offering is to their condemnation, just as it is also for the unrepentant who receive communion of the awe-inspiring mysteries, as the divine Paul says” (St.
Symeon of Thessonika, The Liturgical Commentaries, edited and translated by Steven Hawkes-Teeples, (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2001), p. 232f).