‘when people get to pray for their dead to rest in peace,’ she said, ‘they feel more at rest.’
this was part of discussion of the things to be done on the last sunday of the church year. the argument of why there should be another worship service dedicated to prayers for the dead ran thus: we have always done it, people expect it, it has always been so, and this is what we should do. we should pray for the dead because it has always been done so. there is no biblical ground we can name, but this is how it has been done, and therefore it has to be done again. and so on, round and round.
yes, there are denominations who pray for the souls of the deceased to be freed from the limbo or purgatory, or what/wherever that is. in 1517 this approach lead to the selling of indulgences and the beginning of what we today know as the reformation.
in my book the thing is fairly simple: either those we consider dead are asleep in christ (1 cor 15:17), or they are with christ in paradise (Lk 23:43), or they are in the place of the dead (commonly known as hell) [Lk16]. in none of the cases can the living influence the fate of the dead.*
and then the prayers for the dead become:
a) they are an attempt to be more god than god
b) they are attempts to continue to control the lives of the deceased even after death
c) they are self-manipulation with the aim to do something one can feel ‘good’ about without too much effort
d) they are attempts of living in the past
e) they are attempts to compensate some guilt or lack of forgiveness one feels towards the dead
in none of the cases are the dead, the souls of the deceased, actually either necessary, nor influenced.
summary: it is not the dead we should be concerned about in our prayers. it is our lack, our pain, our unhealed wounds of the soul, our unforgiveness to the living and to our selves that we should be worried about.
it is with the living that the prayer concern should be. the dead are gone – for a while – and we shall meet again, in front of the throne of the last judgement.
and then all will be revealed.
*of course, i am not god. not even a minor deity. i am neither omniscient, nor all-mighty. and i am well aware of the fact that death is the great divide, a wall behind which i cannot see. my knowledge is based on what i read.**
**in the bible