I’ve heard it said a few times in my life that people pray for those they know who have died. I’ve always been skeptical about this concept and was curious as to if this was Biblical or not, so I decided it was time to stop wondering and research the topic of praying for the dead.
Should Christians pray for the dead? The Bible tells us that a person will be judged based on this life, so nothing we pray after a person dies will make a difference. The Bible is clear that God is the judge, so our prayers asking God for mercy on a dead person would be done in vain.
The Bible is filled with scripture about our souls and how every single person will be judged by God. By reading these scriptures, we will have a better understanding of God’s judgment and why praying for a dead person doesn’t make any difference.
What the Bible Says About Praying for the Dead
The Bible doesn’t clearly state “you should pray for the dead” or “you shouldn’t pray for the dead,” but it does speak to how God will judge all who have died.
Scriptures About a Person’s Soul
From the second we’re conceived, God gives us souls. Not only do we have a soul on earth, but they will carry on into eternity. Here are a few Scriptures about a person’s soul:
For every living soul belongs to me, the father, as well as the son—both alike, belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.Ezekiel 18:4
Ezekiel is not speaking about dying on earth, rather, dying an eternal death. Living without God for eternity, in hell.
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.Matthew 25:46
This scripture shows the conflict between life and death. If you are righteous, you will live forever with God and His people, but if you are not following God when your time on earth comes to an end, you will face eternity without Him. Eternal punishment would be yours.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.Matthew 10:28
We are to not fear what man can do, rather Satan the one who can destroy and take captive of you for all eternity. If you believe in Christ, death on earth means you will enter into eternal life with God.
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.Deuteronomy 4:29
This scripture speaks about how you can have eternal life. Anyone can choose to follow God, they must love Him with their heart if you don’t follow God the wages of your sin is eternal apart from Him.
After we have died, we will stand before God and be judged. Every person will have their day of judgment. Here are a few scriptures that speak about judgment:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.2 Corinthians 5:10
By this Scripture, we see that we will be judged according to our lives on earth.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.Ecclesiastes 12:14
God’s judgment is final; there are no more chances. Once you have been judged, your sentence of eternal life or death will not change.
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.Revelation 20:11-13
We have no say and when the time comes we will be judged for our life; for God is the one and only judge.
John 11 tells us the story of Jesus’ friend Lazarus, who had died after being sick. By the time Jesus arrives to Lazarus after his death, he had already been dead for four days. He tells the people to remove the stone to Lazarus’ tomb.
Once they rolled the stone away, verse 41-43 says,
Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face.
Lazarus was alive! Jesus raised him from the dead so the people around would believe in God.
John 20:30 tells us why Jesus performed miracles. It says:
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
The purpose of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was for people to know the glory of God and believe in Him, to this day we are able to read this story and have faith in Jesus!
Should I Pray for the Dead?
The Scriptures say that God will judge each man, we have no authority as to who receives eternal life and who receives eternal punishment. Does praying for a dead person do any good? The answer is no, we are not God and therefore, we have no say of their souls after they had died.
We are not going to sway God be asking Him to show mercy on someone who has already died, if they don’t believe in Him, they will not have eternal life.
What about praying for a resurrection? Praying for resurrection is different than praying for them to have eternal life. The purpose of Lazarus being raised from the dead was not so that he could live on earth longer, it was to show Jesus’ authority so others would have faith and believe in Him.
While it is not wrong to pray for someone who is already dead, there is no purpose is asking God to have mercy on them. We don’t decide when people have eternal life or eternal death. Only God judges on the day of judgment.
Pray for unbelievers before they pass away and cry out to God on behalf of them. Share the Gospel with them and be bold in your faith! Their eternity is on the line.
There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.John 12:48