9 Bible Prayers for Someone Nearing Death

As an earthly journey comes to an end, these words may provide comfort and assurance.

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Posted in , May 22, 2022

Prayers for the dying

My wife and I knew her mother was nearing her “promotion to glory,” as we say in our faith family. She’d been bedridden for weeks. She hadn’t spoken for some time but would occasionally open her eyes and respond to a voice or touch. 

We spent hours at her bedside, visiting, sometimes singing and often reading aloud from the Bible. The passages we returned to most often were those that seemed to prompt a response from Mom. I find it comforting myself to read and pray the following Bible prayers; they seem appropriate and helpful for someone approaching the end of an earthly journey:  

1)  Eternal Pleasures (Psalm 16)
I often insert the other person’s name (and “him,” “her” or “us”) in the passages I read at a bedside. In this psalm, there are multiple opportunities: 

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

2)  Goodness and Mercy (Psalm 23)
Because the Twenty-third Psalm is so well known and beloved, I’ll usually read and pray it without alteration (sometimes from the King James Version, depending on the person’s background):

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

3)  Refuge and Strength (Psalm 46:1-7)
I especially love—and often dwell on—the central verse of this psalm, emphasizing the river whose streams “make glad” the city of God:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

4)  Watching Over You (Psalm 121)
This is another psalm that is familiar to many. I’ll usually speak it directly to the person who is approaching life’s end, whether or not they show signs of hearing or understanding: 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

5)  Calmed and Quieted (Psalm 131)
Psalm 131 is a lullaby. I sometimes pray it for myself as I lay down my head on my pillow. It’s an especially beautiful lullaby for someone who is approaching the end of this life (again, I’ll substitute the person’s name, especially in the last line):

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

6)  Trusting and Unafraid (Isaiah 12:2)
These lines are so reassuring, especially to the lonely and fearful soul: 

Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.

7)  You Are Mine (Isaiah 43:1-3a)
These strong verses stand on their own, but I’ll sometimes punctuate them with God’s words to Joshua in Joshua 1:5 (“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you”):

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

8)  To Prepare a Place (John 14:1-3)
Jesus’ words to His followers, common at funerals, can supply deep comfort in a person’s last hours on earth: 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

9)  Everything New (Revelation 1:1-7)
Among the last words in the Bible is this hope-giving vision of the redeemed soul’s future, when all will be new: 

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will 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!”

These are not the only things I’ve read for someone who’s nearing death. But they’ve often formed my prayers at such times. I hope they’ll be helpful to others as well.

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