Reasons to pray

I’ve got a question for Christians — particularly for born-again Christians — to answer. I’ve heard Christians say that they are going to pray for a person who just died, and I’m wondering what the point of such a prayer is.

I can only think of three possible reasons to pray for a dead person.

  1. To help the person’s soul get to Heaven.
  2. To bring the person back from the dead.
  3. To make yourself feel better.

If you’re a born-again Christian (and not, for example, a Catholic), then you believe that the only possible way into heaven in by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus in payment for your sins. If a person has accepted this sacrifice, then that person will get into Heaven; if they have not, they will not, and no amount of praying can change that. That rules out possibility #1.

There’s no logical reason why God couldn’t bring people back from the dead, and certainly the Bible says that people can come back from the dead, either when commanded by Jesus or on special occasions (such as Good Friday). Within a Christian context, I can see no reason not to pray for someone to come back from the dead. But, in general, Christians don’t do this. I have yet to attend a funeral in which the congregation is asked to join in prayer for the deceased’s immediate return — even when the funeral was for someone who obviously died too young. And pardon the potential offensiveness of this suggestion, but I’ve also never heard those who think that abortion is murder praying for those aborted children to come back and live out their natural lives.

The third possibility — making yourself feel better — is certainly reasonable, but most Christians I’ve met have an aversion to this reason for praying. It’s as if they think that saying they are praying to make themselves feel better is an insult to prayer. Instead, they generally say that they are “praying for her soul” or something equally vague and don’t want to get into what that actually means in practical terms.

So, Christians, tell me: if you pray for the dead, why do you do it? If you don’t, why not?

By the way, as I was thinking about writing this post, I came across the below video in which a woman instructs a room full of children on how to pray to bring someone back from the dead. This is the first time I’ve run across a Christian advocating prayer for the resurrection of living things, and she even says that she knows children whose prayers have brought animals back from the dead. One telling moment: when relating that children have brought pets back from the dead, she qualifies this statement by emphasizing that the pets had not been in the grave but only just died, then goes on to say that God’s power can do anything. If God’s power can do anything, then why does it matter if the pet just died or if it’s been in the grave for a decade? Shouldn’t I be able to get my childhood pets back if I have enough faith? I can’t see why not.

Anyway, watch the video if you have the stomach for it and let me know what you think.

Posted on September 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Discussion

3 Responses

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  1. Written by Spoony Quine
    on September 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    That woman is cheapening the lives of those poor children! “Come back to life in Jesus’ name!” as though doctors are so ignorant that they can’t do any better than modern medical technology.
    ` Which reminds me, a doctor once said to me that I wouldn’t get better unless I accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. Then why was he a doctor?

  2. Written by a christian guy
    on September 28, 2011 at 11:41 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I am the person you were describing in that last post. I am a born again christian, but I have never heard of anything like praying for the dead…that’s a little weird. Is this something that through your research is actually a common occurrence? Also that video was disturbing…I saw the documentary Jesus Camp but I don’t remember that part. Just the lady. Please don’t use that as a basis to generalize all christians. Those Jesus Camp people are psycho.

    • Written by I Declare
      on September 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      In my experience, praying for the dead is done formally by Catholics (they have masses for the deceased, and I have attended several), and more casually by non-Catholics. I have very many times heard Protestants say, upon hearing that someone had died, that they would pray for that person’s soul. I agree it doesn’t make obvious sense.

      FWIW, I certainly don’t take the video to be typical of all Christians. I agree that this was an extreme case — one deserving of the label “psycho.”

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