How to Pray With the Dying: 5 Helpful Tips

by Jack Wellman on October 8, 2011 · Print Print · Email Email

What do you say to a person that is dying?  What about someone who is dying without Christ?  What I would say to a person who is dying in the faith of Jesus Christ is quite different that what I would say to a person that is dying and does not believe in Him.  My first thought of someone who is dying without Jesus Christ is that they will be forever separated from God with no second chance of reconciliation.  That the person who dies without Christ will be cut off from God for eternity is something that rends my heart.  I have had experiences with both.

What to Say to a Person Dying Without Christ

I would ask them if they have ever heard about Jesus.  What do they think about Him?  Do they believe in God?  What do they believe will happen to them after they die?  Where would a person spend eternity after death?  These are sobering questions that are very serious.  I would never shy away from asking a person who may not have long to live these questions.  There eternal destiny is at stake.  The fact is that no one who is without Christ has any guarantee that they will live beyond tonight.  They could die in their sleep.  They could die tomorrow in an accident.  I certainly would hope that they would not but the Bible says that there is a day of judgment coming.  Whether they believe it or not does not change the reality of this fact.

Hebrews 9:27 actually says that we have a day that God has appointed for us to die, saying “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”  God has actually given each human being a set number of days to live.  Psalm 139:16 makes this clear, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Ecclesiastes 3:2a clearly indicates that there is “a time to be born and a time to die.”

The only thing that you can say to someone who does not know Christ and is dying is to reveal to them that they will spend eternity somewhere.  You can tell them that if they have lost any loved ones who were believers, they are now safely in the bosom of Jesus.  This is nothing more certain than death and nothing more sure than Jesus Christ’s free offer of salvation through belief in Him.  He came to earth to live a perfect life, leaving His glory in heaven.  He came to have God place His holy wrath on Him in our place so that we might be able to spend eternity with Him.  That is His desire.  God keeps His promises and if you believe in Him, He will never leave you nor forsake you even after death (Heb 13:5).   Second Peter 3:9 reveals that “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  Knowing that He doesn’t want anyone to perish without Him, if you will place your trust in Him, He will give you saving faith.

Here is all that is involved.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

How to Pray With the Dying: 5 Helpful Tips

Tip Number One- Read and Quote The Bible

The Scriptures above are great to read again and to ensure them that since they believe in Him and all the promises that Jesus has made, then they have no worries after the die.  You will most likely have to read them back to them but they may want to do this themselves.  Leave it up to them, even if this means that they don’t want them read back to them.  Respect their rights.  Do as they say.  If they profess these beliefs then we can know that they already have eternal life.  John 6:54 says “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood (become a believer and participated in Communion) has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”  Of course if they haven’t had a chance to be baptized or to have Communion, I try to reassure them that God is faithful and will not suffer us to remain in the grave if we believe in Him (John 3:16).  There is real power in the Word of God so I try to use this power.  In fact, the verses above contain the very power of God.  The power is actually in the gospel as Paul says in Romans 1:16b, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

Tip Number Two- Comfort Them

I have experienced this situation and it is such an amazing thing being with a saint that is near death and with their having the full assurance of faith in Christ.  This is somewhat easier in the sense that you can provide comfort with the surety of God’s promises from His inerrant Word.  It is always good to have a person reaffirm their beliefs.  The certainty of the promises of God can provide peace and comfort knowing that those who die in Christ will be absent from the body but will be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8).

Tip Number Three- Pray With Them

Pray with them.  For me, I have been moved to tears…and that’s okay.  It is completely natural. They may cry as well.  There is healing in tears.  It is highly likely that they have endured great suffering up to this point and that great day with the Lord is something to eagerly anticipate.

Now this is just my own personal preference and of course, you can use your own methods and words, but I love praying back some of God’s promises.  You may have special verses or a prayer from the Bible that you use, but I love using the Word of God in prayer because God loves it when we pray back His promises. The Psalms for example are full of hope-filled assurances that we can count on.  So here is my own personal prayer using Scriptures that I love but I don‘t include chapter and verse:

“Oh Righteous Father, we know our days are numbered in your book of life and that precious in your sight are the death of your saints.  We are so thankful that we can stand on your promises and know that when we die, we are instantly in your holy presence.  All of those who have gone before us, beloved friends and family, are there waiting for us.  We know that death can not hold us because just as Jesus died and was resurrected, we too know that we also will be raised to eternal life.  There is such peace in knowing that there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, and no more pain.  What great and precious promises you have given us.  We know that nothing can ever separate us from your love.  No one or nothing can snatch us out of Your mighty hands.  Blessed Lord, please be with [name] in this time and with his/her family; to comfort, strengthen, and encourage them during the coming difficult days and times ahead.  We pray that Your tender mercies be upon [name] now.  I thank God for [name] and the faithfulness that he/she has shown in their life.  [name] has placed his/her trust and faith in You and we know that you will never leave [name] nor forsake him/her.  We thank you for your precious gift of salvation which came through the precious the blood of the lamb of God at supreme cost.  Our atonement was made possible by Him and has made us one with You.  We ask these things in the power, majesty, glorious, and most holy name of our Savior, King, Master, and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tip Number Four – Ask Them What They Need Help With

I ask them if they have any special considerations that I could help them with.  Is there something that you want to say or write down that I can tell others?  Is there something that I can do for you after you are gone?  What is it that I can help you with today?  If I give the eulogy and/or the memorial service, I ask them what they would like me to say.  What is it that you want me to tell others?  What special considerations for the service like music would you want included?  Does your family know of your wishes?

Tip Number Five- Talk About Heaven

I not only like to describe where their eternal destination will be like but what their final home will be like.  There are many biblical descriptions of what heaven will be like.  There are some from Isaiah and some from Revelation.  The glorious description of heaven is just too incredible to be told in words. Its total glory will only be revealed when we finally see it for ourselves.  All of our beloved family and friends will be there to greet us.  All of the heartaches and pains will be a thing of the past.  What a wonderful eternity this will be.  It is the final joy of our eternal inheritance.  Jesus said that He has reserved a place for us.  And of course we can fall into the arms of our Savior. We will fall as His feet and worship Him forever.  We have eternal life and this eternity with God will be so overwhelming that it can not be described.  What joy awaits us all some great day.

Your Ticket to Heaven

No one comes to the Father (and heaven) except through Jesus Christ (John 6:44).  There is no other way to gain eternal life than through the Son of God (Acts 4:12).  If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, I pray that you will come to saving faith today.  Jesus says “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).  “I will in no way caste you out” (John 6:37).  Jesus says that, “You will never be snatched out of My hands nor our of My Father’s hands” (John 10:28-29).  If you will only believe in Me, you can have eternal life (John3:16).  That is my prayer for you this very day.

Sources

The Holy Bible, New International Version

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 



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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam October 10, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I really like this article Jack. Sometimes it is so hard to comfort the dying. If I had to add a tip number six it would be “Know when you should just listen”. Sometimes that is all you need to do … just listen.

Great stuff! Well done brother.

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Jack Wellman October 11, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Thank you Pam. That is a brilliant observation and one that I should not have overlooked. Well done.

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Elmira November 29, 2012 at 11:27 am

No one comes to the Father (and heaven) except through Jesus Christ (John 6:44).  There is no other way to gain eternal life than through the Son of God (Acts 4:12).  If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, I pray that you will come to saving faith today.  Jesus says “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).  “I will in no way caste you out” (John 6:37).  Jesus says that, “You will never be snatched out of My hands nor our of My Father’s hands” (John 10:28-29).  If you will only believe in Me, you can have eternal life (John3:16).  That is my prayer for you this very day.

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-to-pray-with-the-dying-5-helpful-tips/#ixzz2DdLI88A0

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Tony January 11, 2013 at 8:09 am

Jack: Thank you for this. I’m leaving shortly to visit with my dying friend, who is being moved to Hospice today. He is a devout Christian and a true believer in Christ, as I am. Your prayer is very beautiful. Even though the title of the article is “What to Say to a Person Dying Without Christ”, the prayer really is for someone who is with Christ and indwelt with the Holy Spirit. So it is my intention to use it this morning.

Thanks again for your article. Very inspirational and helpful.

God Bless

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Jack Wellman January 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Tony, I am overjoyed that such godly men of compassion exist like you. You blessed (made happy) my heart today. I have been getting severe persecution more and more, and increasingly intense (to be expected) and so your encouraging comment helped me and I thank God for men of faith like you. I can tell you have Christ living in you!

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Tony March 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Hi Jack: Just wanted to follow up with you. Thank you for your kind and gracious words. I was able to use your prayer twice, once with my friend, his wife, his two children, and a friend of both of us; we held hands as I offered your prayer. It was truly a divine moment, his wife in particular was incredibly touched along with his children. It was important for me to let you know that your inspired prayer uplifted everyone as I’m sure it has for many other readers of your blog. My friend went to be with the Lord five days later. The second offering of your prayer (modified a bit) was offered the next day to a group of 150 business/government persons of mixed faiths I would say, attending a luncheon who all knew my friend. I took the bold step to offer the modified prayer by having everyone bow their head in respect, and for those who shared my friends faith to pray along with me. It was perfect. My hope was that someone would be touched, and as it turned out about two weeks later, someone in that audience asked me more about the saving grace of Jesus. May the Lord be praised . . .Well, this is getting a bit long, so again, just wanted you to know that not only did your prayer comfort the dying and their family, but was instrumental in the possibility of saving someone’s soul . . .

God Bless you and thank you again for this blog.

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Jack Wellman March 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Tony, I am at a loss for words to tell you what your post means to me my friend. How touching. How much of a heart you have for the lost. What a precious thing you did and the boldness in which you shared the gospel encourages me so much my friend. What a joy this was. You know, in the end, it is all about the glory of Jesus Christ in whose precious name we pray so that is truly where all credit rightly belongs. How your words just filled me up today. I can’t count the number of times my 200 plus articles get attacked and from other believers, so your edifying words came at the right time but above all, for the right purpose: To expand the Kingdom of God so that Jesus is glorified all the more. Thank you Tony and I thank God for you.

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Tony July 17, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Hi Jack:

Glad to see your blog is still out here in cyberspace! As you know, I was able to use your prayer to comfort a devout Christian last year.

I now find myself visiting a fellow Rotarian tomorrow in Hospice, who most likely, is a Christian in name only. I’ve asked a few friends of his, and it appears he really hasn’t gone to church in decades and has not really given any indication of being a believer.

We’re told he is conscious, but his eyes are closed and he doesn’t speak but can still hear. I suspect he may have only a few days, but of course, only God knows.

So, in looking over your prayer, I’d like to modify it to ask for God’s mercies and blessings for my friend. I’ve been praying for the right words to use, but my prayers as of yet, haven’t been answered. I will see him tomorrow at noon. If you have any thoughts, they would be most appreciated.

Thank you again for your kindness and graciousness for your website.

Tony

Brian January 25, 2013 at 4:41 am

Jack: Thank you for this article, I learned yesterday that a ex employer and dear friend (almost a brother) has not long to live. I am planning to visit him shortly, but he lives some distance from me now and I haven’t seen him for almost a year. I was concerned that I wouldn’t know what I would say to him when I arrived. He believes in God as I do but I was struggling to find the words, your article has inspired me.

Thank You and God Bless you.

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Jack Wellman January 25, 2013 at 11:17 am

Thank you for the encouraging words Brian. Let me tell you that your heart is truly filled with the love of God, by your words I can tell clearly. The thief on the cross shows that as long as we have breath, there is still time. Our elder’s father-in-law was dying and I shared the gospel with him and 2 days later he passed away, so just understand that God is sovereign and may be using you just for the same purpose. May God richly bless you in this and give you the right things to say for this friend’s eternal salvation. I read to the elder’s father-in-law Romans 10:9-13 and asked him if he believed this and he said yes. This is a promise for those who believe in (put their trust in) Christ (John 3:16-18).

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philip February 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm

wow. Your words are encouraging. am touched..God will give you all it takes to spread it out more and more widely to the world

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Jack Wellman February 13, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Thank you sir….your words are encouraging to me. May God richly bless you sir and please come back again my friend.

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Debbie May 23, 2013 at 10:25 am

Jack,
Thank you for your wise words and beautiful prayer to help navigate a loved one through such a difficult time. I lost both my mother and father within 6 months of each other in 2012 and 2013. My dad died quickly from mesothelioma and it was harsh watching such a vibrant man of God deteriorate outwardly so quickly. My nephews, incredible young men of God, came to my dad’s bedside during his last few days and read powerful scriptures of hope to my dad and prayed with him. It was such a demonstration of compassion, commitment and faith to honor my parents and our family when it would have been easy to stay away because it is a very difficult time. They demonstrated to me how to lovingly come beside someone during their last mile and walk, no, carry them home. I will not only cherish the memory but also commit to doing the same for someone else. There is nothing more powerful and comforting than God’s Words when it comes to leaving this world. I also have to say that hospice treated my dad and our family with such tender compassion and dignity. They demonstrated all the small and big ways to make this process as comfortable as possible.
I remember asking God to send guardian angels for dad and He said “I already have”. I knew that he meant all the humans that tended to dad in his last days.

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Jack Wellman May 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Hello Debbie. What a touching event to share with us and this is exactly the meaning and intent of this article but your personal account added so much more. My own late mother when Hospices was caring for her, did a similar thing and were like the angels themselves that helped to carry her or transition her from this world to the next in heaven. Thank you so much.

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Glenda November 20, 2013 at 11:47 pm

My elderly neighbor just admitted to me that although he attended church and sang in the choir for over thirty years, he has never been able to make a commitment to Christ. We talked at length and I shared my faith. He knows the tenets of the faith, but has never surrendered his heart to Jesus.

I have strongly suggested that he continue to read the Word, for therein lies the power. Is there anything else I can do for him besides pray that the Holy Spirit softens His heart and gives him the faith to believe?

I would appreciate your thoughts.

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Jack Wellman November 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

Thank you Glenda for your comment. You are doing what you need to be doing already. God alone is the one who sends His Holy Spirit to convict the sinner. Keep praying. Suggest your friend read the Gospel of John and/or 1, 2, and 3rd John. These are such a faith-builder and if you could ask your friend, “If you were to die tonight or if Christ came back today, would you be certain that you would go to heaven?” That question makes a person think about their eternal state (Rev 20:11-15) as to if they are ready or not because everyone has an appointment of death and they all need to be ready. (Heb 9:27)

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Jack Wellman July 17, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Tony, you are so kind. I visited a member of our church who just went into Hospice this week so it is odd that we are both experiencing a similar situation but I know that as long as a person is drawing breath they still have hope of being saved because God is so kind and patient and desires all to be saved. I will join with you. Yes, modify it and I so agree with your reasons. What I did when I was able to speak with our Elder’s father I said “Do you believe in Jesus Christ? (he was so weak he could only shake his head yes). Then, do you believe that He lived a perfect, sinless life? (nodding yes) Do you believe that He died for me and for you and all who have sinned? (yes). Would you put your trust in the Savior today to save you? (nodding yes) Since you believe that Jesus lived a sinless, perfect life to die for all of us who were sinful, and very imperfect, and that He died for you will you trust Him right now? (nodding yes). He died less than 3 days later. Our elder’s wife said that he had never believed that she knew of. Tears came out of the corner of one of his eyes. Even if they cannot respond, someone in Hospice, unresponsive, may indeed hear you and even though they can’t respond or say “Yes, I believe” we must share the gospel with them and then ask them if they believe what you just said. If you get no response, say “I am not sure if you can hear me but God wants you to go to heaven and if you believe then you will be saved.” God alone knows if they understood it or heard it but it is worth a try. Even though someone’s eyes don’t open or they don’t speak doesn’t mean that they can’t hear and still yet, be saved! I want to direct you to an article called “Are Death Bed Conversions Real?” at http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/are-deathbed-conversions-real-are-they-fair/ and maybe it will give you more reason to at least try my brother. I will pray for this as well. We must try.

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Tony July 18, 2014 at 8:01 am

Jack:

Thank you for these kind, gracious and thoughtful insights. I will rely on the Holy Spirit to guide my actions at noon today. The questions you pose will be with me. Your article that you referenced was very helpful.

Thank you again for your insights and for maintaining this blog. God Bless!

Reply

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