Veterans are among the many heroes that deserve our respect and remembrance, thanks to their service. One of the ways that we respect those who make sacrifices for the country is by remembering them each year on Memorial Day. This year, Memorial Day is on Monday, May 31.
While visiting a national cemetery to offer our prayers, we may be at a loss as to what to say for those who were killed in action or died of natural causes. But sharing a short prayer for those who have given their lives for the common good may help us feel more connected to them and more inspired to our own acts of service. This blankness on what to say can be further compounded when someone we love dies and we are asked to give a veteran’s eulogy.
Should you be called upon to share some words, consider gathering some inspiration from the Memorial Day prayers below.
Tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, it isn't just organizing the memorial that can cause stress. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming 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.
1. “For those who have died on active service” from The Church of England
“For those who have died on active service
O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those men and women
who have died in active service…”
Believers of this Christian faith can look to this prayer as solace, as well as a kind remembrance and sincere request for mercy for those who have died in service of their countries.
2. “An Old Soldier’s Prayer” by Lewis Millett
“I have fought when others feared to serve.
I have gone where others failed to go.
I've lost friends in war and strife,
Who valued Duty more than love of life....
I've seen challenged men become even bolder,
I've seen the Duty, Honor, Sacrifice of the Soldier.
Now I understand the meaning of our lives,
The loss of comrades not so very long ago.
So to you who have answered duties siren call,
May God bless you my son, may God bless you all.”
Soldiers who are on duty and called to serve can hold a rare spot of courage and bravery in our hearts, especially if they are asked to go on repeat tours.
Millett’s non-denominational prayer focuses on the meaning and understanding that comes from experiencing war, and soldiers may find comfort on Memorial Day in remembering these things they’ve seen and how they put their memories in context.
3. “Prayer of Good Over Evil, Light Over Dark” from Hinduism
“Fill the Heart with the oil of love.
Place in it the wick of single-pointed mind.
Light it with the Knowledge of Truth and remove
the darkness of ignorance around you.
Just as one lamp can light many lamps; let each
youth kindle this Light in many hearts.”
Many members of the military start off young, looking to follow what they consider to be the right path to protect their country. This prayer is a useful one for wisdom on any subject, but particularly when we are mourning the loss of someone in the military or are wondering how our loved ones may be doing while on duty.
4. “Antim Ardas Ceremony” from Sikhism
“Death is pre-ordained – no one who comes can remain here.”
The Sri Guru Granth Sahib, or the main piece of religious scripture in Sikhism, offers up this line as part of the “Antim Ardas Ceremony.”
This ceremonial prayer can be a helpful reminder that death is a natural process. It can also be a salient reminder that a wider universe is out there when considering one’s own pain and grief on Memorial Day.
5. “Dua for Closing the Eyes of the Dead” from Islam
“O Allah, forgive [name of the person] and elevate his station among those who are guided. Send him along the path of those who came before, and forgive us and him, O Lord of the worlds. Enlarge for him his grave and shed light upon him in it.”
This Islamic prayer upon the burial of a loved one can be particularly helpful for those who were engaged in selfless actions in the military upon their death.
6. “Traditional Buddhist Prayer” from Buddhism
“May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness;
May all be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow;
May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless;
And may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion,
And live believing in the equality of all that lives.”
This beautiful prayer can bring comfort to those who are missing someone they love on Memorial Day, and it can be a powerful reminder to treat all people with respect and kindness, no matter the injuries or conflicts of the past.
7. An Untitled Non-Denominational Prayer
“Relive the sufferings of the innocent victims of war;
grant them peace of mind, healing of body,
and a renewed faith in your protection and care.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.”
Memorial Day is also important to keep in mind not only of the sacrifices that service members have made, but also the innocent whose lives were also lost during war. Offering up a prayer for everyone who has been visited by war can also help on a day like Memorial Day.
8. “Let Us Be United” from the Rig Veda of Hinduism
“...Let us speak in harmony;
Let our minds apprehend alike.
Common be our prayer,
Common be the end of our assembly;
Common be our resolution;
Common be our deliberations.
Alike be our feelings;
Unified be our hearts;
Common be our intentions;
Perfect be our unity.”
When a loved one dies in service of our country, it may be hard to process as we try to imagine their last thoughts. This Hindu prayer can be unifying in a time of sadness, and can be used in a military funeral, to remind everyone that we all seek peace and unity.
9. “Untitled Prayer for Parents in Military Service”
you watch over each and every one of your children
Hear my prayer for my father/mother
Be his/her constant companion.
Protect him/her no matter where he/she goes,
and bring him/her safely and quickly home to those who love him/her.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
On Memorial Day, it's even more present to children that their families are away at war. This comforting prayer would help a child feel hopeful about a parent’s return.
10. “Untitled Prayer for In-Service Soldiers”
“Dear Lord Jesus and Mary, Mother of God,
Hold all these brave souls in the palm of your hand, comfort them and their families.
Send angels of protection, love, and comfort to all the servicemen and women still at war,
bring them home safely and comfort their families.”
If you have a friend or family member who is a military spouse with a partner on duty, consider sharing this Catholic prayer with them. On Memorial Day we not only remember those who have died, but also those who continue to serve and the families they have waiting for them.
11. From “A Hindu Peace Prayer” from Hinduism (from the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence)
“I desire neither earthly kingdom, nor even freedom from birth and death...
May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May your wisdom spread peace all through the world.
May all things be a source of peace to all and to me.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (Peace, peace, peace).”
The Hindu belief in death and rebirth can be a reminder to those who have lost loved ones in battle can continue to learn from their sacrifice. Their stories can help forward the causes of peace and wisdom in the world.
12. “Prayer for Those Who Have Fallen in Battle” from Catholicism
“All Powerful God,
We honor today those men and women—
Our sons and daughters,
Husbands and wives,
Fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers—
Who have laid down their life for their country.
Whether weary or emboldened, quiet or defiant,
Vulnerable or ready when You called them home,
Their sacrifice is too humbling for words
except these uttered in prayer.
Loving Lord, bless them forever in Your eternal peace…
Cherish their spirit, honor their commitment,
send them our love,
and will never forget the service that they gave.”
Every military member that has died on duty was also a member of a family. They may be someone’s parent, spouse, sibling, or a friend.
A prayer like this from the Catholic faith can hopefully provide some ease to their community members that are grieving. In addition, it may remind them of the glorious pursuit of sacrificing for one’s community.
13. “A Jewish Prayer for Peace” from Judaism
“...And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more…”
When service members come back from duty, they may feel unsettled coming back to a place where they are not constantly on watch.
On Memorial Day or any other day, saying this verse from the Jewish faith may give some support for service members looking to start anew back home. It can bring comfort to those who are grieving or remembering a past military loss.
14. “Lao-tzu’s Peace Prayer” from Taoism
“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”
As one of the creators of the Taoist philosophy, Lao-tzu’s peace prayer showcases how one’s personal peace is directly connected to peace throughout the world. It's an outgrowth of the efforts of love and kindness in one’s own heart.
Honoring Fallen Soldiers in Prayer
Sadly, no amount of prayers can repay those who have sacrificed their lives for a peaceful and free country. But as citizens that are protected by those in service, we can celebrate and care for those who have passed away through prayer according to our own faith traditions and through commemorations like military funeral flag processions.
It's true that not everyone comes from a background where prayer is a key component of their lives. That being said, even a moment of meditation on the sacrifices of others can be a good re-orientation of our minds. When you consider your own future needs, start end-of-life planning on Cake with easy-to-use tools.
If you're looking for more ways to honor veterans on Memorial Day, read our guide on Memorial Day readings.
- “Jewish Prayers.” Center for Mission and Identity. Xavier University. xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/jewish-prayers
- “16 Good Prayers for Fallen Soldiers.” Connect Us Fund. connectusfund.org/16-good-prayers-for-fallen-soldiers
- “Prayer for Our Fallen Military.” The Passionists of Holy Cross Province. passionist.org/prayer-for-our-fallen-military/
- “Old Soldier’s Prayer.” Association of the United States Army. AUSA. ausa.org/old-soldiers-prayer
- “Hindu Prayers.” Center for Mission and Identity. Xavier University xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/hindu-prayers
- “Taoist Prayers.” Center for Mission and Identity. Xavier University xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/taoist-prayers
- “Buddhist Prayers.” Center for Mission and Identity. Xavier University. xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/buddhist-prayers
- “Antim Ardas Ceremony.” Fremont Gurdwara Sahib. fremontgurdwara.org/antim-ardas-ceremony
- “Duaas for the Graves and Funerals.” Islamic Prayer. sites.google.com/site/islaamicprayer/prayers-from-the-hadith/duaas-for-the-graves-and-funerals
- “Prayers for Death and Dying.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/bereavement-and-funerals/prayers-for-death-and-dying.cfm