Prayer for souls -- retroactively


I figured this topic was probably covered many times before so before posting I did a search but came up empty.

God, is outside time. We are instructed to pray to save souls. Most notably I think of our Blessed Mother instructing the children of Fatima to pray many rosaries to save souls.

If our prayer can assist in saving the soul of a living person (assuming I am interpreting Mary’s request properly), and God is outside time, can I pray for a soul of a loved one with hope that my prayer, in the present, assited the loved one, in the past?

Love to hear thoughts on this and particularily any theological evidences or Catholic teachings to either support or deny this.


Good question…one of our prayer intentions during Mass is for the loved already gone to their rest.


Well, I think it’s possible and people say that it is but I’m having hard time understanding how.

A person dies and he either converted or not. If I pray now then how can this action influence what has already happened? I can’t figure it out and it makes my head spin. :stuck_out_tongue:


I have heard this said before or I read about it in a spiritual book (I’m thinking in the writings of a saint), where the answer is “yes”, God can “anticipate” the prayers for a person that will come in the future.

I’ve read also (in similar Catholic spiritual writings that I can’t remember which) that by our prayers we can change the past.

I think what that means is that the present does “change the past” in some ways because depending on what happens each day, the events of the past can be re-interpreted, or have different meaning.

I can’t think of a good example for this, except that through prayer, the actions that a person did in the past can have more value and fruitfulness to God.

Good question in any case.


Check out the “Retroactive Prayer” thread. :slight_smile:


I know of the victim of a particularly nasty murder who had been living a sinful life. I pray often that he repented and forgave his murderer while dying. Since I have no way of knowing what he did, I expect God can make use of the prayer.

The 9-11 victims are another case. Many who do not believe in Purgatory prayed for the victims. Their prayers must be for the victims to have repented while dying.

Those events gave me the thought that while we pray to get people out of Purgatory, maybe we should put some effort into praying them into Purgatory.


Thank you for your replies. They give me some comfort that I may still be able to influence the destiny of someone whom I love deeply, who was not (outwardly) a follower of Christ. When she passed away, an elderly woman, there were many many tears shed because she was so loved and so cared for those around her.

May I ask you to pray for her too?




God can apply your prayer at any point where it will benefit. If you pray for someone who has already died, the prayer may be applied by God to help them in purgatory, or it may be applied to help them to full conversion at the moment of their death. (Or both.) God is not limited by temporal considerations in how our prayers are applied.


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