Losing a loved one is never easy. And when the death is unexpected or sudden, you can face additional challenges. One of those obstacles is finding prayers and messages that apply specifically to unexpected and sudden deaths.
If your loved one passed away suddenly, or you want to comfort the family of a suddenly deceased person, you might be on the search for applicable prayers. Below, we’ll provide you with 15 short prayers and excerpts (from various religions) that relate to sudden loss.
1. “The Hail Mary” from Catholicism
According to the Catholic faith, it’s essential to confess your sins if you want to ascend to heaven after death. Those who die suddenly might not always have the chance to do that.
That’s why this catholic prayer is a popular choice when someone dies suddenly. It asks God to pardon the soul of the deceased if they had any sins remaining at the time of their unexpected death.
Hail, Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
2. “Mahabharata” from Hinduism
According to Hindu tradition, the soul of an ordinary deceased person needs the help of prayers to reach paradise. These prayers are especially important for those who die suddenly, as they may maintain a stronger attachment to their physical body.
Many Hindu prayers for the dead and funeral speeches borrow from the Mahabharata, which is one of two essential Indian epic poems. A popular passage from the Mahabharata that relates to sudden death includes the following.
Wondrous indeed is this world where one
who was here yesterday may not be found today...
3. “El Maleh Rachamim” from Judaism
The El Maleh Rachamim is the Jewish prayer for the dead. Although the doesn’t refer specifically to sudden or unexpected death, it’s certainly appropriate for someone who died suddenly.
God, filled with mercy, dwelling in the heavens' heights, bring proper rest beneath the wings of your Shechinah, amid the ranks of the holy and the pure, illuminating like the brilliance of the skies the souls of our beloved and our blameless who went to their eternal place of rest.
4. “Salat al-Jann” from Islam
In the Islamic faith, it’s important to recite the Ṣalāt al-Janāzah, the funeral prayer, as soon as possible. The congregation performs the prayer as part of a greater ritual, and it’s meant to seek pardon on behalf of the deceased and all dead Muslims. And this can be especially essential when someone passes away suddenly and unexpectedly.
O God, forgive our living and our dead, those who are present among us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our males and our females. O God, whoever You keep alive, keep him alive in Islam, and whoever You cause to die, cause him to die with faith...
5. “Prayer for the Dead” from Bahai
In the religion of Bahai, there’s traditionally only one prayer recited for the dead. The Bahai Prayer for the Dead is only obligatory when the deceased is over the age of 15 years old, but it also applies to sudden and unexpected deaths.
O my God! This is Thy servant and the son of Thy servant who hath believed in Thee and in Thy signs, and set his face towards Thee, wholly detached from all except Thee. Thou art, verily, of those who show mercy the most merciful...
6. “Prayer About a Violent Death” from Christianity
Some sudden deaths have the added tragedy of being violent in nature. A contemporary Christian prayer, excerpted below, applies to those situations.
Father, I bring before You those that have had the devastating experience of having someone close to them that they know and love, suffer a sudden, violent and needless death.
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7. “Mourner’s Kaddish” from Judaism
Although the El Maleh Rachamim is the standard prayer for the dead in Judaism, mourners also recite the Mourner’s Kaddish after a death. The Mourner’s Kaddish doesn’t mention death directly; instead, it reaffirms the mourner’s faith in God in the face of grief and loss. And this prayer can be especially helpful in the case of a sudden death when a person’s faith might be tested.
Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name
in the world which God created, according to plan.
May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime
and the life of all Israel—speedily, imminently,
To which we say: Amen.
8. “Tibetan Dying Prayer” from Buddhism
One of the best-known Buddhist prayers for the dead is the Tibetan Dying Prayer. It comes from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and it describes what a soul experiences after physical death.
The Tibetan Dying Prayer plays an important role in sudden and unexpected deaths, in which the person may not have had the opportunity to die consciously and with purpose.
Through your blessing, grace, and guidance, through the power of the light that streams from you:
May all my negative karma, destructive emotions, obscurations, and blockages be purified and removed...
9. “The Lord’s Prayer” from Christianity
The Lord’s Prayer is a staple in the Christian faith. According to Christian tradition, Christ spoke the words when his disciples asked how they should pray. It follows that many Christians recite the Lord’s Prayer when a loved one passes away suddenly, either on its own or with other prayers.
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...
10. “Antyesti” from Hinduism
The Anteyesti or Last Sacrifice prayer often plays a role at Hindu funerals, including funerals for people who passed away unexpectedly.
Burn him not up, nor quite consume him, Agni: let not his body or his skin be scattered,
O all possessing Fire, when thou hast matured him, then send him on his way unto the Fathers.
11. “Prayer for the Dead” from Catholocism
At many Catholic funerals, including those for people who passed away suddenly, a priest recites the Prayer for the Dead.
In your hands, Oh 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...
12. “Thanksgiving for the Life of the Deceased” from Christianity
When you lose someone suddenly, it can be helpful to look back on the time you had together. The prayer, Thanksgiving for the Life of the Deceased, helps mourners do that.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us all with the gift of this earthly life
and has given to our brother/sister [Name]
his/her span of years and gifts of character...
13. “No More Laboring” from Christianity
The No More Laboring prayer in Christianity is often used in the case of sudden death. It symbolizes a state of eternal rest and reflects mourners’ hopes that the deceased is at peace.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed Indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’(Revelation 14:13).
14. “Psalm 121” from Judaism
This Psalm speeks about God as a guardian. It reaffirms that God has a plan spanning ages, even if we don’t understand it at the moment.
...He will not let your foot slip — your guardian is not asleep. No, the guardian of Isra’el never slumbers or sleeps...
15. “Sudden Death Prayer” from Christianity
This simple Christian prayer expresses the confusion which often accompanies a sudden or unexpected death. It references “Jesus Christ our Lord,” making it an appropriate prayer for Protestants, Baptists, and other Christian denominations.
God of hope,
we come to you in shock and grief and confusion of heart.
Help us to find peace in the knowledge
of your loving mercy to all your children,
and give us light to guide us out of our darkness
into the assurance of your love,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Praying for the Suddenly Departed
If you believe in a higher power, praying for a loved one who suddenly passed away can help you come to terms with the grief. And if you’re part of a religious community, praying for the deceased, together, can help you feel less isolated in your time of mourning.
And while this is only a short list of the many prayers for the recently deceased, the options above will help get you started.
- “The Hail Mary.” Vatican News. www.vaticannews.va/en/prayers/the-hail-mary.html
- Krishnananda, Swami. “Prayer for Departed Souls: Its Purpose and Prerequisites.” www.swami-krishnananda.org/disc/disc_32.html
- “Sudden Death Prayer.” Prayers and Prayer Info. www.prayer-and-prayers.info/funeral-prayers/sudden-death-prayer.htm
- “Prayers for Unexpected Deaths.” Knowing Jesus. prayer.knowing-jesus.com/Prayers-for-Unexpected
- “Traditional Prayers at Funerals.” The Gardens Cemetery and Chapel. www.thegardens.com/traditional-funeral-prayers/