What should you decide first when you’re planning a funeral service for a loved one? You may need to choose a casket or an urn for your loved one's remains. You probably need to select the music that will be played at the end-of-life services.
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Perhaps you will need to pick the pallbearers for the funeral. And finally, you’ll need to choose the scripture that will be read at the graveside burial service. Let us help you with part of the funeral planning process. Here are some popular scriptures that you may want to consider using for the service at the cemetery.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, it's tough to handle both the emotional and technical aspects of their unfinished business without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
Popular Graveside Service Scriptures
There are Bible verses for every life stage. When you attend a Christian wedding, you assume that you will hear the verses from 1 Corinthians, when Paul describes what love is. At Christmas Eve services, you expect to listen to the story of the nativity from one of the gospels. When you attend a graveside service, you may expect to hear one of the following scriptures read.
1. "The Lord is my Shepherd" from Psalm 23
Psalm 23 is famous because it offers words of comfort to a person who is dying as well as comforting thoughts for those in mourning.
For those who are dying, the scripture reads, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."
And if you are missing that important person in your life, you should receive comfort in knowing that he or she "will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
2. "Do not let Your Hearts be Troubled" from John 14:1-3
Jesus spoke these words to his disciples when talking about the eventuality of his death. These words were probably comforting to Peter, Phillip, and the rest. But they also encourage us after we lose someone we love.
The scriptures talk about the promise of life in heaven for those who follow Christ. Jesus says, "My father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
3. "For Everything, There is a Season" from Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
We learn quickly that life is full of good times and bad. These verses in Ecclesiastes remind us that there is "a time to be born and a time to die. There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh." It is part of the natural ebb and flow of life. Sometimes that knowledge that others have grieved before us helps put our own loved one's death in perspective.
4. "New Heaven and a New Earth" from Revelations 21:1-7
John's book of Revelations is a prophetic book. Even though most associate it with being apocalyptic in nature, it also tells of the promise of what is to come after the "first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more."
This vision includes a world where "God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." This vision of what the new world will hold may give comfort to those who recently lost a family member or friend.
5. "Come to Me" from Matthew 11: 28-30
In this verse, Jesus looks with compassion at those who suffer and mourn. Mourners often don't know who to turn to for solace. Jesus says to turn to him. "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."
6. "God will bring with Him Those who have Fallen Asleep" from 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
Hearing death described as sleep is comforting to those who have lost someone close to them. It is especially comforting to know that the dead in Christ will one day arise and join with those still living "to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
7. "Those who walk uprightly enter into peace" from Isaiah 57:1-2
Although many of the previous verses are from the New Testament, you can also turn to the Old Testament to find words of comfort. In these verses from Isaiah, we learn that "Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death."
We may suffer when we lose someone important in our lives, but we do have some solace when we know that their bodies are at rest.
8. "God of all Comfort" from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
"Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
When we receive comfort from our grief from God, it gives us the strength and knowledge to spread that comfort to others who suffer. This is never truer than when we lose a family member. We can't stay strong all the time, but others in the family may be able to provide enough strength to the rest of the family.
9. "We, too, might Walk in Newness of Life" from Romans 6:4
Paul explains in the book of Romans the reason that Christ died and rose again. He said that "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, too, might walk in newness of life."
These words of hope are very appropriate for a Christian's burial service.
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Popular Graveside Committal Prayers
For many Christians, prayer is simply a personal talk with God. There are no scripts to follow, and no church hierarchy gives approval to the words that are spoken. For some, this is the type of prayer you would expect at a graveside committal service.
Other Christian faiths have published books of prayers. The Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran churches all have published books of prayer. Here are some funeral prayers from these published prayer books.
10. "At the Burial of an Adult"
“O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant and grant him an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
This prayer, from the Book of Common Prayer, is appropriate to read at the burial of an adult. There is another prayer that is more acceptable to read for a child’s burial.
11. "After a Funeral" from the Lutheran Book of Prayer
This rather lengthy prayer begins this way:
"O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered, grant that the solemn services of this day may make us deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life, and of the transitory nature of all earthly things."
Like many of the verses on this list, this prayer puts our loved one's death in perspective. We know that eventually, we will all die.
12 "Prayer for a Deceased Person" from Prayers, Novenas, and Hymns
There are many prayers from the Catholic church for those who are deceased. Here is one prayer that you may consider for the graveside service of your Catholic family member:
"Incline thine ear, O Lord, unto our prayers, wherein we humbly pray thee to show thy mercy upon the soul of thy servant, whom thou hast commanded to pass out of this world, that thou wouldst place him in the region of peace and light and bid him be a partaker with thy saints. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
13. "Prayer for a Deceased Person" from Prayers, Novenas, and Hymns
Here are a few more prayers appropriate for a Catholic funeral:
"May Christ who rose from the dead, our true God, moved by the intercession of his spotless mother and of all the saints, place the soul of his departed servant in the tabernacles of the just; may he lay him to rest in the bosom of Abraham, numbering him among the just; and may he, who is both good and kind, have mercy upon us. Amen."
14. "Prayer for a Simple Graveside Service" from the Methodist Hymnal
Even if a church denomination doesn't have an official book of prayer, it may have prayers listed in hymnals and other sources. Here's one from the Methodist church.
"O God, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Give to us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. And when our days here are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you."
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Finding the Right Prayer for a Loved One's Service
Perhaps planning for your loved one's funeral makes you think about your own funeral. Start end-of-life planning if you have specific wishes about the readings and prayers for your own funeral.