Prayers support the foundations of religion while offering condolences to family members whose loved one is dying. Each of the short prayers below can bring comfort and wisdom using faith pathways to inspire hope and perseverance in life after death.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Christian Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
- Islamic Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
- Jewish Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
- Hindu Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
- Buddhist Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
- Sikh Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
In today's world, you’ve probably developed a diverse group of friends. This means that in times of sorrow, you’ll want to offer a prayer for friends of cultures you may not understand. So, we’ve compiled a list of prayers or recitations suitable for varied beliefs.
Christian Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
The following prayers ask Mary, Jesus, or God to support the family with strength, grace, honor, and hope in their time of sorrow.
1. “The Memorare”
The Memorare calls upon the Virgin Mary for protection, help, and intercession and returns with mercy for the plea:
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
2. “Episcopal Prayer”
O God of peace, whom hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
3. “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, 3:16-17.”
Paul’s letter to Ephesians asks God to strengthen and invite Christ into their hearts while filling them with love.
These verses are more suitable as a funeral prayer for the family than that of their dying loved one.
4. “Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, 2:16-17.”
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
Islamic Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
In Islamic tradition, the dua is a supplication or request with nine pre-conditions for God to grant the appeal. These prayers are at the very center of worship, written by prophets observed within the Quran.
Many people feel helpless at the sight of someone ill, but there are prayers to help. Since Allah is the healer, reciting two Surahs such as these and then blowing breath over the loved one’s body may bring comfort to the family.
6. Qur’ān | 2:155-157
Recite the following words for those who are sad but remain steadfast in their devotion to God’s plan:
They are those on whom are the Salawaat from their Lord and receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones.
7. Ibn Maajah, no 3660
The following words are suitable for the children of a sick parent:
A man’s status will be raised in Paradise and he will ask, ‘How did I get here?’ He will be told, ‘By your son’s du’aa’s for forgiveness for you.’
8. Muslim 2/671, Ibn Majah 1/494
Because there is wisdom in connecting with death, one would recite the following passages:
Peace be upon you, people of this abode, from among the believers and those who are Muslims, and we, by the Will of Allah, shall be joining you. I ask Allah to grant us and you strength.
Jewish Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
The following prayers are traditional to Jewish practice in preparation for those that are dying. You’ll find them located within the Hebrew Bible as well as the siddur, which is the traditional Jewish prayer book.
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9. “Mi Shebeirach”
When someone is suffering, the Mi Shebeirach is a common prayer recited to support loved ones and the whole of humanity.
It’s a prayer that asks for a physical cure and spiritual strength, blessings, compassion, and even restoration.
The Shema is a short prayer often accompanied by various blessings for more significant meaning. If sending a sympathy gift basket, write it on an attached card.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Praised be His glorious sovereignty throughout all time.
The Viddui is a confessional prayer sometimes recited on behalf of another. It includes themes of repentance, faith, and trust. Another version is recited on Yom Kippur.
Now, O God, take my pain and suffering as atonement.
Forgive my mistakes, for against You have I sinned.
12. “Your Word is a Lamp to My Feet, Psalm 119”
The benefit of Psalm 119 is that it is anachronistic, which means that you recite the readings particular to the letter of the loved one’s Hebrew name.
Pro-tip: A few online resources can help you discover the translation of their name into Hebrew, so you know which passages to recite accurately.
Hindu Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
In Hindu tradition, family and friends of the dying one create a space of contentment and spirituality in those final moments while reciting verses from the Vedas.
13. Bhagavad Gitā 8.5
The family recites the following words on behalf of their loved one bringing them closer to God.
The one who gives up his body remembering me (the Lord) during his final moments reaches me. Of this, there is no doubt.
14. Chandogya Upanishad 8.12.2
Recite this Hindu philosophy to help the Family remember that even if they do not see the Self, it's forever within their loved ones.
The air is formless. So, also are clouds, lightning, and thunder. All these arise from the sky and assume their respective forms due to the heat of the sun.
15. Chandogya Upanishad 8.12.3
In Vedānta philosophy, the Self is the master, and happiness exists within all of us. Here, the Hindu verse explains that the prana is detaching from the body and becoming one with everything, even the insects.
16. Bhagavad Gita 2.22
Here’s a short prayer to offer that death is not the end of existence:
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
Buddhist Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
Both Buddhist prayers and meditation are unique to the wisdom of Buddha. Various sects of Buddhism find relevant prayers or chants within the Theravada text, Mahayana texts, the Dhammapada, and even the Three Pure Land Sutras.
17. On Impurity, Chapter 18, Verse 238.
Recite verse from The Dhammapada to encourage the Family to understand that the mind shapes life and death. When building intimacy with the natural world, death is quickly dispatched as temporary.
Light the lamp within; strive hard to attain wisdom. Become pure and innocent, and you will be free from birth and death.
18. “Clear Light Prayer”
The Clear Light Prayer originates from Mahayana Buddhism and is selected for those who are sick and dying. In it, the substance-less mind and the vibrant or luminous mind are said to be inseparable, thereby creating a pathway to see one’s mind at rest in the Buddha-mind.
Pro-tip: It should be read aloud three to seven times clearly and precisely while following the ten steps necessary to deliver a reading.
19. A Mahayana Prayer
By this virtue, at the instant of death, may you take rebirth in Tushita. 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 the Dharma abiding in Tushita, I prostrate.
20. “A Buddhist Prayer for Peace”
One would recite this prayer, hoping that the family of the loved one who is dying finds solace and peace from the suffering and challenges surrounding their death. An excerpt from it reads:
May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.
Sikh Prayers for the Family of a Dying Loved One
When loved ones are dying, Sikhs will gather, remember, and celebrate. Sometimes they will sing while others listen to recitation during the final moments. The Sikh scripture (the Guru Granth Sahib) can be either sung or recited, but there is no grieving ritual.
The Sohila is central to the Sikh liturgy. Because its themes are life, death, and celebrations, many find comfort and guidance in its wording.
22. “Waheguru Meditation”
Waheguru (the wonderful Lord) is a mix of Punjabi and Sanskrit. While repetitively chanting it, you’re calling upon Divine Light to remove blocks or spiritual darkness and encourage movement from ignorance to wisdom and illusion to enlightenment.
23. “Sukhmani Sahib or Psalm of Peace”
Composed by the fifth Guru Arjan Dev, the Sukmani Sahib spans 35 total pages in the Granth. The messages within include meditation, studying, and practicing holiness, kindness, thanking God, honoring your fellow man, and more.
24. “Chanting Akaal”
Chanting the Akaal at the time of death created a frequency that elevates the soul during its transition. The sound current will act as a guide from the earthly realm to beyond.
Diversity in Prayer for Passing Loved Ones
Across many cultures, we note that the prayer and customs to support grieving families are unique. Yet, while these traditions may not transfer from one religion to the next, we can offer our support in similar ways—with love and tolerance.
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- Selected verses of duas made by Prophets in the Quran. (2020). zaahara.com/blogs/writers-corner/selected-verses-of-duas-made-by-prophets-in-quran
- Karma-gliṅ-pa & Evans-Wentz, W. Y. (2020). The Tibetan book of the dead. Mineola, NY: Ixia Press.
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- Singh, S. (2015). Sikh Ways of Grieving. simranjsingh.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/sikh-ways-of-grieving/
- Xavier University. (2020). Catholic Prayers. www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/catholic-prayers
- Yogapedia. (2020). What is Waheguru? www.yogapedia.com/definition/9250/waheguru