In a recent post, I explained how to think through the opening words of a funeral service. Then, I mentioned that I would be addressing how to apply the gospel to the different areas involved in a funeral. The first area of the five to consider in this post is prayer. Even though we pray publicly often as pastors, a funeral service can bring with it challenges in preparing to pray we do not face normally for our local church public gatherings. So then, allow this advice hopefully to lead you in the right direction as you face the very unique challenges funerals most always bring.
Prayers can be staggered throughout the service and done by different people. However, make sure if you allow someone else to pray in the service that you know them and have confidence that they will pray to the same end you are working towards. I recently did a funeral where certain members of the family asked if they could have their Catholic priest say a prayer during the service they asked me to conduct. I tried to graciously explain that I could not do that, as I assumed a priest and I would have a different theological understanding on what is an appropriate way to pray during the service.
This is a good time to exhort you to choose wisely the hills you want to die on as you prepare: they should revolve around whether the gospel would be confused, not your personal preferences. In this context, I would rather have the family upset with me than to confuse the gospel by a Catholic priest praying in the service to a gender-neutral deity or for the soul of the person who had died!
After establishing a credible individual to pray in the service (if it be someone else besides you), pray for the spouse, children and grandchildren, friends, and other acquaintances that God would comfort them, they would find their hope in the gospel, and they would grieve in a way that honors God, as well as the person they have come to remember. Any additional advice on praying at a funeral?
Next up…how do I prepare music?