Choosing what to say at a funeral and organizing the funeral itself is a difficult task — in more ways than one. Luckily, Christians have a wide range of available material to choose from. Take your pick from prayers that have been used for hundreds of years, psalms from the Bible, and more.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Prayers for Opening a Funeral
- Prayers for Closing a Funeral
- Catholic Funeral Prayers
- Contemporary Funeral Prayers
Not sure about the right prayers or poetry to include in a loved one’s funeral? We’ve got you covered.
COVID-19 tip: If you chose to use a virtual Christian funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still recite prayers with your online guests. Speak with your planning team, ensure you have the right mics and speakers, and make sure to rehearse the ceremony.
Prayers for Opening a Funeral
Opening a Christian funeral is a solemn occasion. It sets the tone for the memorial service and comforts mourners. These prayers praise God, mention the occasion you’re gathered for, and focus on the hope of eternal life.
1. “Lord of All, We Praise You”
This prayer focuses on the positives of death and Christians hope to see God face-to-face after death. It also paints death as a form of rest, where they have followed the footsteps of Jesus to the other side.
“Lord of all, we praise you for all who have entered into their rest and reached the promised land where you are seen face to face. Give us grace to follow in their footsteps as they followed in the way of your Son. Thank you for the memory of those you have called to yourself.
2. A Prayer for the Dead
Many Christians try to take comfort in the fact that God is in control of everything. He makes decisions about birth and death and his power controls all. The idea that a loved one’s death is part of a greater plan is consoling to many people. It also paints death as something other than a grand finale, an end from which there is no return.
“God our Father, your power brings us to birth, your providence guides our lives, and by your command, we return to dust. Lord, those who die still live in your presence, their lives change but do not end. I pray in hope for my family, relatives, and friends, and for all the dead known to you alone…”
3. The Lord’s Prayer
No matter the occasion, this is one of the most popular prayers in Christianity. Spoken by Jesus on an occasion when his disciples asked how they should pray, it’s become hallowed. It’s a great opener to many somber Christian events.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...”
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Prayers for Closing a Funeral
The end of a funeral provides finality and closure. At a Christian funeral, though, it’s also meant to provide hope. Those in mourning will see their loved ones again, and there is a purpose to the pain they are suffering through right now.
4. Prayers for Mourners
Death is often associated with painful regrets and loss. This prayer suggests that we focus on hope instead. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the more painful emotions associated with mourning. Yet, this prayer asks for a brighter future in the kingdom of heaven.
“[Name] is gone now from this earthly dwelling, and has left behind those who mourn his/her absence. Grant that we may hold his/her memory dear, never bitter for what we have lost nor in regret for the past, but always in hope of the eternal kingdom where you will bring us together again.”
5. Additional Prayers for Mourners
Mourners can rest easy in the idea that the love of God and Jesus is there to console them. It also serves as a callback to Bible verses that talk about heaven.
“May the love of God and the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ bless and console us and gently wipe every tear from our eyes: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
6. The Resurrection Prayer
The best closer for any Christian funeral is a focus on the resurrection. It transforms the entire purpose of a funeral. It’s no longer a goodbye, it’s “I’ll see you later, in a better place.”
“I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. I know that my redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth and though his body be destroyed, yet shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger…”
Catholic Funeral Prayers
Catholic funerals are full of rituals and traditions. They form comforting patterns for religious people.
7. Irish Blessing
Blessings for the deceased aren’t common at Irish Catholic funeral services. They are far more common for those left behind. This prayer takes a different tack.
"May the road rise to meet you, and the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm on your face and the rains fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you gently in the palm of his hand.”
8. Prayer of Commendation
Commending a soul to God holds a certain type of reverence. It’s a sign of letting go, and also a declaration that the soul of your loved one is in God’s hands now. It’s all out of your control.
“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.”
9. Prayer for the Dead
Christians look forward to a world where they will live with God and the Son forever. In this world, pain and sin and suffering all go away. This prayer attempts to rejoice that their loved one is now experiencing this world.
“In your hands, O Lord, we humbly entrust our brothers and sisters. In this life you embraced them with your tender love; deliver them now from every evil and bid them eternal rest. The old order has passed away. Welcome them into paradise, where there will be no sorrow, no weeping or pain…”
10. Prayers at Graveside
Jesus was dead, too, for three days and three nights. He’s a powerful Christian symbol of hope and belief that their loved ones too, will resurrect.
“Lord Jesus Christ, by your own three days in the tomb, you hallowed the graves of all who believe in you and so made the grave a sign of hope that promises resurrection even as it claims our mortal bodies. Grant that our brother/sister may sleep here in peace until you awaken him or her to glory, for you are the resurrection and the life…”
Contemporary Funeral Prayers
In today’s world, many funeral prayers sound rather archaic. The language is old and stilted, and it’s difficult to connect to a modern audience. If that’s what you’re dealing with, consider these great options.
11. Prayer for All Mourners
This prayer announces God’s omnipotence and sovereignty over a painful world. It is a comforting juncture in the middle of a contemporary funeral.
“Dear Lord, you are the Father of all mercies, who cares for all your people with an everlasting love. You are the God of all comfort, who consoles all those that are suffering the death of a loved one. You are the God of all peace, who has promised to pour your perfect peace into the hearts of your children. We are going through the pain and suffering that the loss of a precious loved one brings.”
12. Shock and Sadness at the Sudden Death of a Friend
This prayer acknowledges the harsh pain and shock that you can feel about sudden death. It’s a prayer that asks God to help with pain and comfort.
“Lord God of hope, we come to you today in deepest grief and with such sadness of heart at the sudden death of such a beloved friend. He was snatched away from us in such a tragic way. Lord, we know that our time is in your hands. The shock and sadness that the life of this precious person was cut short fills our hearts with deep pain and sorrow. Be our comfort in this time of loss.”
13. Thanksgiving Prayer for the Life of the Deceased
Most prayers focus on pain, on trying to comfort the bereaved, on hope. Very few prayers focus on thankfulness for the deceased. The time spent with him or her, the good he or she did in the world — this prayer gives thanks for all the above.
“Dear Heavenly Father, it is always hard to say goodbye to those who have died, for we know that they will be missed by so many who are left behind. Lord, You also remind us that the death of your saints is very special to you. We want to join together to thank you for the life of your child. It was a wonderful witness of your love and grace.”
14. In Jesus’ Name
This prayer focuses on Christ and his accomplishments and love for us. It also provides a clear goal for the days ahead of the bereaved: knowing Christ more.
“Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for all the benefits you have won for us, for all the pains and insults you have borne for us. Most merciful redeemer, friend, and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.”
15. Funeral Prayer
This prayer thanks God for the time the bereaved did get to spend with someone who died. It also acknowledges a need for strength, something many people know they lack.
“God our Father, we thank you that you have made each of us in your image, and given us gifts and talents with which to serve you. We thank you for [Name], the years we shared with him/her, the good we saw in him/her, the love we received from him/her.”
Share Your Heart
Coming up with the perfect prayer or poem may seem impossible. Choosing a prayer that expresses what’s on your heart is the most important thing you can do.
- Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Prayers for Death and Dying.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 2007, www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/bereavement-and-funerals/prayers-for-death-and-dying.cfm.