09 November 2022

Catechesis: Prayer for the Dead

Regarding the adversaries quoting the Fathers about offering for the dead, we know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not ban.—Ap XXIV:94


Andrew Aulner said...

Pastor Weedon,
Thank you for consistently promoting confessional Lutheran doctrine through your podcasts, books, and other outlets such as this blog.
If you have a spare moment, would you be able to point me to some resources regarding the appropriate practice of prayer for the dead as mentioned here in the confessions? In my five years as a convert to Lutheranism, I've never heard it talked about beyond arguments against the aberrant doctrine of Rome.
Thank you!
Andrew Aulner
Pacific Hills Lutheran, Omaha, NE

William Weedon said...

Thank you for the kind words, Andrew. See here: https://weedon.blogspot.com/2019/11/a-prayer-for-all-souls.html

William Weedon said...

Oh, and another beautiful example from Starck’s Prayer Book:

O holy and righteous God, it has pleased You to call from this life the departed lying here before us by temporal death. Let us learn from this death that we, too, must die and leave this world, in order that we may prepare for it in time by repentance, a living faith, and avoiding the sins and vanities of the world. Refresh the soul that has now departed with heavenly consolation and joy, and fulfill for it all the gracious promises which in Your holy Word You have made to those who believe in You. Grant to the body a soft and quiet rest in the earth till the Last Day, when You will reunite body and soul and lead them into glory, so that the entire person who served You here may be filled with heavenly joy there. Comfort all who are in grief over this death, and be and remain to the bereaved their Father, Provider, Guardian, Helper, and Support. Do not forsake them, and do not withdraw Your hand from them, but let them abundantly experience Your goodness, grace, love, and help, until You will grant them also a happy and blessed end. Hear us for Your mercy’s sake. Amen. (Starck’s Prayer Book Revised Concordia Edition, p. 345)

William Weedon said...

Oh, and last but not least, check out how the Prayers begin in the LSB Funeral Service:

Almighty God, You have knit Your chosen people together into one communion in the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Give to Your whole Church ***in heaven***and on earth Your light and Your peace.

LSB Altar Book, p. 395.

William Weedon said...

Let me let Luther answer, but note that in his day apparently the Hail Mary stopped at “Jesus.” Here’s from his Personal Prayer Book reprinted throughout the 16th century:

Take note of this: no one should put his trust or confidence in the Mother of God or in her merits, for such trust is worthy of God alone and is the lofty service due only to him. Rather praise and thank God through Mary and the grace given her. Laud and love her simply as the one who, without merit, obtained such blessings from God, sheerly out of his mercy, as she herself testifies in the Magnificat [Luke 1:46–55].

It is very much the same when I am moved by a view of the heavens, the sun, and all creation to exalt him who created everything, bringing all this into my prayer and praise, saying: O God, Author of such a beautiful and perfect creation, grant to me.… Similarly, our prayer should include the Mother of God as we say: O God, what a noble person you have created in her! May she be blessed! And so on. And you who honored her so highly, grant also to me.…

Let not our hearts cleave to her, but through her penetrate to Christ and to God himself. Thus what the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: “Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee [Luke 1:28]; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor. Similarly there is no petition in the first words of the Lord’s Prayer but rather praise and glorification that God is our Father and that he is in heaven. Therefore we should make the Hail Mary neither a prayer nor an invocation because it is improper to interpret the words beyond what they mean in themselves and beyond the meaning given them by the Holy Spirit.

But there are two things we can do. First, we can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her [as one blessed by God].

So far Luther (AE 43:39). The Lutheran confessions certainly grant that Mary prays for the Church, but absent any specific command, promise or example in Scripture of calling upon the saints in prayer, we hold that it is an uncertain matter and prayer ought not be uncertain. Hope that’s helpful.

Andrew Aulner said...

Wow, thank you so much, Pastor!

This is like drinking from a firehose (in a good way)!