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A Funeral Prayer

  • Gregory Coles
  • 2018 8 Feb
  • COMMENTS
A Funeral Prayer

The Lord Jesus has taken away the sting of death through his resurrection. Believers know that for all who are in union with Jesus, their bodies will be united to Christ after death and they anticipate the hope of the resurrection. The sting is gone. The last enemy is defeated. Death has no victory over the believer.

All of this is true in a spiritual sense—death has lost its sting, victory over death has been won. Death no longer holds us captive, but as a pastor for nearly a decade, I have observed that death and the trials and sorrow surrounding it have stings that catches many families by surprise. We never know when we will be called out of this life. Middle-aged men die; children die; old people die. Unless Jesus returns, we will all die.

There will be mourning; the sting of death will bring pain. But trust me in this—if you are in Christ, the mourning will be only here on earth; you will be face-to-face with your precious Savior, Jesus Christ.

Excerpt from The Stings of Death by Nathan Ehelman

A Funeral Prayer for Comfort 

Dear Jesus, How remarkable it is to have a savior who weeps with me.

Back when I was in elementary school, I loved John 11:35 for its brevity. “Jesus wept.” My friends and I would giggle, pleased that we had discovered the second-shortest verse in the Bible. (The shortest verse, as we gleefully reminded each other, was Job 3:2, “He said.”) I didn’t pay much attention to the context of John 11: the story of how You were en route to the tomb of Your friend Lazarus, in the company of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, mere days after Lazarus’ death. I didn’t dwell long on the significance of Your tears.

How different that verse looks to me today. Today, as I see the casket topped with flowers that blur at the edges because my eyes go damp every time I look in their direction. Today, as pastors and friends and family members speak about my loved one using the past tense instead of the present. Today, as the words of the hymns catch in my throat and render me mute. Today, as the hope I still hold to be true collides with the waves of sorrow suffocating me.

Today, “Jesus wept” means everything to me. Today, I remember that You wept because someone dear to You and dear to people You loved had died. Even though You already knew the end of the story—even though You knew that death wouldn’t have the final word—still You wept. You didn’t stand aloof, offering textbook reassurances and condescending pats on the head. You heard the stories, clutched the shaking hands, walked to the tomb, and shed tears of your own. You grieved the loss, and You grieved with those who felt that same stinging loss.

Today, Jesus, I am thankful to worship a God who became human enough to weep with me.

I believe that the world wasn’t made for death and loss. I can feel by the cavern in my chest that something is wrong, that this aching sorrow isn’t the way things were supposed to be. And yet I also believe that You, Jesus, are in the business of restoring what has gone wrong. I believe that death won’t get the last word because You’ve already crushed it and declared the power of resurrection over everyone who will receive it.

I believe that this story, like the story of Lazarus, ends in victory. I don’t grieve like someone without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), because I anticipate new life on the other side of the clouds. And I want to celebrate for brothers and sisters who get there ahead of me, the saints who have sprinted past me into Your throne room. I want to take delight in their delight. Their pain is gone, their needs met, their sorrows overturned, and that thought alone makes me weep for joy.

But knowing the end of the story, knowing the good that’s coming and has already come, doesn’t erase the heartbreak for the meantime. Today, I cry tears that mean a hundred things at once, happy and sorrowful and desperate and hopeful. I trust You to sort them out as You catch them, to hear and answer each prayer they represent.

I cry for those of us left behind, for the lonely ones with hollows in our hearts. I ask You to comfort us, give peace, restore hope, and lavish us with love, family, and belonging. In the depths of loss, meet us with Yourself. 

I cry for the legacy this loved one leaves, for the ways the world has been made different by their presence, for the memories that become both more beautiful and more painful on this side of death. And I pray that the work You have accomplished in this remarkable life will grow deeper, wider, and stronger in the days to come, uninhibited by a weak opponent like death.

I cry for those who haven’t yet accepted Your invitation into eternal life, for those who grieve without hope today. I pray for awakening in their hearts, for a stirring that draws to You. I pray for more attendees at the grand reunion scheduled in the coming eternity.

I cry for all the ways the world has gone wrong, and for all the ways You’re making it right again. I ask that You make me part of Your work in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth.

I cry knowing You are here with me. And because You are here, even my tears have meaning. In Jesus' name, Amen.

A Prayer for Those Hurting from Loss

Our hearts are grieving with those who are hurting, for those who have lost loved ones, for those who have suffered such great tragedy at the hands of evil. We ask that you would be their Comforter, that you would cover them with your grace and mercy, surrounding them in peace during this dark time.

We thank you that you alone are our Refuge, our Strong Tower, our Defender, and our Peace. We thank you that no matter what we face, you are still on the throne, you are still in control, and that no evil can ever stand against you. It will be defeated, it will not win. For you alone have won the final victory, and the enemy’s days are numbered.

Thank you God that you are surely with us…thank you that you care…thank you that your Presence is close…and that you weep with those who weep.  We need you. We know and believe beyond any doubt, that your power and love will never fail. In Jesus' Almighty Name above all Names, Amen.

Excerpt from Prayer for Those Who are Hurting by Debbie McDaniel

Scriptures to Read at a Funeral

I didn’t fully understand the depths of grief until the year my family lost two sisters and a brother within eight months. My brother-in-law lost a five-year battle with cancer, my sister died an agonizing death from a toxic clash of prescribed medications, and my sister-in-law died suddenly from a triple brain aneurysm. God comforted us through those horrible days in many different ways. Friends made hospital visits and attended funerals. Distant relatives emailed sweet expressions of sympathy. Fellow church members sent cards and casseroles. Our greatest source of comfort, however, was the Bible verses we read in the days surrounding our loved ones’ deaths. Here are 10 verses we found especially meaningful.

"He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Isaiah 53:3 - This verse was meaningful to me because it reminded me that while no one on earth could understand my unique pain, Jesus could. Fully God and fully man, Jesus experienced the depths of human emotion during his time on earth so he could identify with our grief. Combined with John 11:35, where Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, this verse gave me unshakeable proof that God was not only aware of my grief, but grieved with me.

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8 - Even if I cry river, Psalm 56:8 told me God would collect every one of my tears. The ones I blinked back. The ones I cried silently. The ones that soaked my pillow in the middle of the night. Not a single tear escaped his notice. Each one was precious to him, because I was precious to him.

"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me." Psalm 23:4 - This beloved verse reminds me that death is only a shadow. It passes over for a moment, but it cannot permanently hurt the believer. Eighteenth-century preacher Dwight L. Moody described it this way, “The valley of the shadow of death holds no darkness for the child of God. There must be light, else there could be no shadow. Jesus is the light. He has overcome death.” 

"We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." 2 Corinthians 5:8 - This verse, paired with the New Testament story of Jesus’ last hours on the cross, reassures me that as soon as my loved ones took their last breaths on earth, they took their first breaths in heaven. I don’t have to wonder if they’re languishing in some in-between holding place hoping to one day see Jesus. Like Christ told the thief on the cross when he placed his faith in him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV). A beloved pastor once described death as walking from one room into the next. The moment my loved ones stepped out of the room called earth, they stepped into the room called heaven. And Jesus was waiting for them there.

"He wil wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'" Revelation 21:4-5 - The thought of Jesus wiping away my tears once and for all is a precious thought. Think of a world where sorrow is banished and sickness, pain, and death have no home. Picture a place where sin’s curse has been removed, and we’ll never again have to experience the agonizing pain of cancer, Alzheimer’s, or heart disease. No hospitals. No cancer centers. No funeral homes. Just health, joy, and peace.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5 - My pastor shared this verse with me during one of my darkest days. “Right now,” he said, “you feel like you’ll never be happy again, but you will. You may wonder if it’s okay, if being happy somehow dishonors your loved one. Trust me, it doesn’t.” He was right. In time, my family and I did smile again. Even in the midst of our grief. Sometimes we laughed through our tears at the silly things our loved ones had done or said. Other times we’d share a special memory or tell a story that made us feel close to them again. I discovered that there’s healing in tears, but there’s also healing in laughter. My pastor’s words gave me permission to experience them both in my journey through grief.

Excerpt from "10 Scriptures About Death to Comfort" by Lori Hatcher

Gregory Coles is the author of Single, Gay, Christian and an English instructor at Penn State University. Learn more at www.gregorycoles.com or follow him on Facebook.

Photo courtesy: Unsplash.com





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