Sin of Pride to Pray for Souls in Hell?


Dear all,

I’ve been thinking deeply about a story I once heard about a prominent Zen Buddhist. It’s a story that has touched me, and I have often reflected on it. I’ll retell it here:

A Zen Master (I think it was Suzuki, but I don’t recall) was coming to the United States for the first time. He was travelling to a number of cities in order to give lectures, and as part of his presentations, he solicited questions from the audience on a wide variety of matters.

One of the questions most commonly asked was, “Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?” The question was somewhat confusing the the monk, because heaven and hell don’t mean exactly the same thing in Buddhism as they do in Christianity. So, the monk would simply pass on the question each time it was asked, never truly giving a full response.

Finally, in his last lecture, after delivering his presentation, the question was asked one final time: “Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?” The monk paused for a moment before speaking.

“I have been asked this question nearly every day while in the United States,” he said. “And I am finally ready to answer.”

The audience went into that hushed silence, waiting expectantly for the wise man’s answer.

“If there is a hell,” the monk said, “I think we should all go there.”

No one knew what to say. Go to Hell? All of us? But the monk continued.

“I think we should all go to hell, because the people who are there need our help the most.”

It’s a wonderful story, I think. I doubt it’s true (in a historical sense), but I do think it expresses a very beautiful sentiment. Just as we should care for those who are materially suffering in the worst ways, we should also care for those who are spiritually suffering in the worst ways.

That having been said, I’ve been thinking about the story more. God’s the ultimate Judge, and He alone decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. Maybe I will end up in Hell someday, and maybe not (hopefully not!).

But the point is, He knows best. It is up to His infinite wisdom to make the decision. If that is so, does desiring to help souls lost to Hell also mean that we desire to place our own feelings of compassion and mercy (however admirable) above the wisdom of God? And is that a sinful desire?

Looking forward to your thoughts!


It is placing your views above God.

Also, people who have gone to hell have decided that for themselves. They have rejected, finally and permanently, God and His will. And at best your prayers for them are futile. At worst, it may increase their suffering. What I mean by that is hell is actually ALSO a form of God’s mercy. The worst thing possible for someone who has definitively rejected God is to be in His presence, His holiness is painful to them. So prayers for them may actually be painful as well.

Those are just my thoughts.


We pray for those who are not in hell -so we all may be in true life.


1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”


Your question presupposes that God wants people in Hell.
I think it is our belief that he doesn’t.
So, seems to me we can join Him in desiring that no one be there.
Much like your Buddhist. Yes we should pray for all departed souls.


Neat story, very compassionate. I think we can do more for those in Hell by praying for them now, than we could by going to Hell with them (or after them).

Is it possible to pray someone out of Hell? With the Lord, nothing is impossible, and asking for impossible things isn’t a sign of arrogance, at least for so long as it is a sign of trust in the Lord and in His Power. If it is possible for a soul to be rescued from Hell, the Lord will be able to do it.


We -can- pray for people in Hell, in the strictest sense of the word, however, doing so would be a waste of time. The people in Hell have irrevocably chosen to reject God. Since prayer is only effective through God, it would be ineffective on people in Hell because they would chose to reject any help which would be offered them.

A Soul cannot be rescued from Hell, sorry. I wish that was not the case, but it is. Hell is the final decision to completely and totally reject God. There’s no turning back from that. That’s why we have so many opportunities to turn back to Him in this life.

Instead of praying for the people in Hell, who are beyond our help, pray for the souls in Purgatory, it will shorten their stay, and bring them to the presence of God that much sooner.

God Bless.


We do not know who if anybody is in Hell; therefore, all of the dead may be prayed for.



Let us pray for both the souls in Purgatory and those souls in mortal sin who unless they repent will go to hell. “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I love you save souls”.


We should not pray for souls in hell because we can’t do anything for them. They are completely cut off from God and the Holy Spirit. Our prayers won’t reach them. We can pray for those that have died though. Only God knows who is in hell or will be in the future. We can have hope that someone that died had perfect contrition and was forgiven at the last moment of their life. Then our prayers would help them because they are in Purgatory.



Just pray for all those who have died, as our Church does in the mass, entrusting their souls to God’s grace and mercy.

But please note that the Church teaches very clearly that souls in Hell will stay there for eternity. We cannot pray them out of there. Thus, pray for them that they don’t go there in the first place. Once they are there, prayers are too late. So don’t waste time specifically praying for souls “in hell”; pray rather for all those who have died, or specific souls, who you may hope have died in God’s grace.


But the bible makes it quite clear humans are immortal beings by design, so if God granted us free will and his forgiveness, I doubt it would only be applicable for a certain period of time…right?

It is definitely OK to try and help save souls in hell, why would it not be?! Im positive there are some in hell that regret their choices in life and wish they had some help, but all it takes is crying out to God and asking for forgiveness.

Since we are TRUE immortal beings once we were created, that means, we are granted all of Gods ‘benefits’ and grace for our ENTIRE life period, which would be eternal, so we can ALWAYS ask God for forgiveness…makes perfect sense to me!

If it had been any other way, God WOULD NOT have told us we can ONLY ask things of him during a certain period, but he did not, he said his love, forgiveness, grace were UNCONDITIONAL AND ETERNAL…this says it all imo.

I realize many people on here disagree with us, but I TRULY believe in the above.


Catholic theology, mercifully, is not rooted in Buddhism.

We depend on the grace of Christ, not ourselves, for salvation.

There is no comparable doctrine in Buddhism.


Of course, I believe that it is quite possible that Hell is empty - only God can know. And it is ultimately up to God. And I know that prayer can be helpful, and especially to saints like Michael who intervene at the moment of death for us.

But imagine that there is a soul in Hell. What worse torment could there be? And of course it is in a sense compassion which makes us pity that soul. But it is also seemingly misplaced - after all, God is infinitely more merciful, understanding, and compassionate. So if God, with all of His mercy and understanding, decides to subject someone to eternal torment, what does that say about our own sense of compassion?

Is it misplaced? Is it truly “mercy” that we feel?

This really troubles me.


Depends on how you define “comparable.” There are “similar” ideas in some forms of Buddhism.


Of course, those in Hell, Michigan; Hell, Norway; and Hell, Cayman Islands, need prayer as much as anybody.




Many people like to say Hells main punishment is separation from God, but I have to wonder if this is true then why does hell need a lake of fire, and other such punishments that effect someones body? If separation from God was that bad, that is all that would be needed.

But when you look at the facts about hell in depth, they dont really hold water, Jesus said people would be screaming and gnashing their teeth, but in the afterlife, people are not in their bodies, they are spirits, and spirits do not have teeth or other body parts, plus, it is said after the final judgement, ONLY those going to heaven will receive glorified bodies, so this implies those going to hell will not even have glorified bodies…no bodies= no way for someone to suffer physical pain imo.

Im thinking all the doom and gloom describing hell was meant to scare people into worshiping God more than anything else.


Name a Christ figure in Buddhism to whom one can open one’s heart for the gift of grace.

And a direct quote from that Christ figure would be helpful. :shrug:


God Himself has spoken on this matter. First, we know that the devil and 1/3 of the angels (now demons) are in hell. So hell is not empty.

Second, Jesus repeatedly spoke of those who would be sent to hell, and He said there would be many. We don’t know who these are, and that is His judgment. But don’t make the mistake of assuming because the Church hasn’t declared a specific person is in hell, that hell is empty. It’s not.


I agree. And it’s been a very effective scare. Self interest drives us all.

The part about hell that I’ve come to accept is that hell is not an agony imposed on us by God. It is an agony we choose for ourselves … which hardly satisfies our self interest. Yet the devil has us believing that defiance of God is really in our interest. We get to put ourselves on the throne of God and put our will before God’s will. That is so twisted; yet its the devil’s own logic, and has been ours since the serpent fooled Adam & Eve.

People who see clearly their own ultimate interest are not fooled by the devil. They tell Satan to go to hell. :wink:


Good point, thank you for that… it had kind of escaped my mind during my writing; although I would personally rephrase it to say that we cannot know who specifically in Hell, so there’s nothing wrong for praying for any individual. We could pray for Hitler if we wanted to because, probabilities aside, we cannot be positive that he’s in Hell until we die. We do know, as others have pointed out, that there -are- people in Hell though.

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