Why do Protestants refuse to pray for the departed (dead)?

Why do Protestants refuse to pray for the departed (dead)?

When my step-father died in the ICU the hospital chaplain who I assume to be Protestant by his dress (suit and tie) refused to pray for his soul.

It hurt me and came across as uncaring.

Do Protestants beleive that the soul at death instantly shoots off to heaven or hell, and our prayers cannot change the matter?

I know that Protestants do not beleive in the existence of purgatory, so they just stop praying?

Just comes across as callous to me.

Sorry Rose, but I was thinking more of the run-of-the-mill Evangelicals, baptists, presbyterians and so on than CofE members.

Anglicans to me sort of bridge the gap between Prostestant and Catholic.

Gnuss does the ELCA pray for the departed? Does the LCMS, they despite the Evangelical in the name don’t come accross as typical Evangelicals.

Most Protestants…at least most of whom I am acquainted, pray for the dead in a less formal way…we pray that they find rest in the Hands of God…we pray they know peace at last…to know joy and rest from their labor…to dweill in the Light.

I’m sorry that hurt you, but you answered your question yourself. If we do not believe in purgatory and we believe someone goes straight to heaven or hell why pray for their soul? No amount of praying will change where they are going. We believe that your only chance is on earth (“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”). After you die you have lost that chance. You will either go to heaven or hell and no amount of prayer from your family and friends can change that. What will the prayer do? If they are in heaven then they are with God Himself! If they are in hell then it is too late for us to do anything. Instead of praying for the departed one’s soul we pray for the family and friends they left behind.

By the way, my fiance’s mother recently passed away, she is Catholic, and from what I remember the priest did not pray for her soul at the hospital. All I remember is he said something along the lines of “she is free from pain and suffering and she can be with God,” prayed the our father, and did a hail Mary. Maybe it depends on the priest? :shrug:

He did pray for her. You indicate so, yourself. Catholics don’t often hold the spontaneous prayer you are used to. I presume that he (or another priest) also said a funeral Mass, as well.

As for the efficacy of prayer after death, remember that God is Eternal (completely outside of time). Abraham’s travels through Canaan are as much “in the present” for Him as our time is. We can, therefore, send Him a petition that we would like for Him to answer in a time we consider past.

If that is considered a prayer for her soul then I guess we too do the same because I have been to many funerals where I have heard pastors say something along the same line as that priest.

Okay, I have a genuine question. About the whole God being outside of time thing, does that mean if someone is in hell right now and you pray for them God can change something from the past where this person will not be in hell anymore? Because that just doesn’t make sense to me. Once you are judged that is it. You get what you deserve. It makes no sense to me that after someone is judged God will grant our prayers to save them and change it up. You only have one life to live. If someone dies an unbeliever they will be judged as an unbeliever and they will get their due punishment.

I don’t know why he seemed cold & uncaring. I must be a different kinda Protestant because I believe in praying for people as they are dying and afterward. No one knows what happens after death- God alone is the judge. Why would it hurt to pray? The spirit lives on.

I meant that praying the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary, not the statement about being free of earthly suffering.

It is not possible to pray someone out of Hell. As you say, immediate judgement is either Heaven or Hell. (Purgatory is a clean-up spot before Heaven. No person bound for Hell ever sees Purgatory). However, a person’s dying moments are frequently very private. Their consciousness or bodily function slips beyond where we would be able to communicate with them. God isn’t so limited, however.

My grandfather, an avowed agnostic/atheist, died a few years ago. My grandmother is a lifelong, devout Christian. I’m sure you recall St. Paul’s letter exhorting Christian wives to remain with their unbelieving husbands in the hope they might find salvation through their wives’ faithfulness. That passage gives hope that he may have finally come to God in his last moments. We can pray for his ability to respond to God during that time.

All I ever hear about death from Protestants (mostly Baptists) is “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” That means if the person is “saved,” they will be with Jesus immediately upon their death. Ergo, why pray for their soul? If they are “unsaved,” they will be judged and sent to Hell, so prayers are not going to help them in that case either.

And yes, they pray for the family to have peace and comfort.

If they are actually in Hell right now, then obviously the prayer was ineffective in turning this person away from Hell, although it was probably still effective in directing our own souls (in praying for others) towards God. But we do not know who is or is not in Hell: God has not granted us that knowledge. So we can pray for anyone, that they turned to God and were welcomed/are being welcomed/will be welcomed into the light of his presence, and can hope. If they are in Hell despite the prayer, they were always going to be in Hell. If they are not in Hell due to the prayer, they were always going to not be in Hell due to the prayer.

You could equally say that there is no point in praying for currently living people to turn to God and be welcomed into the light of his presence, because if they are in Hell in the future, will God change something from the future where this person is not in Hell anymore? Once you are judged, that is it. This way lies Calvinism and a disbelief in the power of prayer.

Rather than thinking of it like “Back to the Future”, where the past and future change, think of it as God being eternal and all moments being equally present for him. More like God sees the whole four dimensional map of the entire universe. God’s plan for us includes our freewill, and includes all the prayers everyone ever makes, and things are sometimes arranged so that things God wishes to happen happen in response to prayers. To God, whether the prayer or the event came first is irrelevant, because everything is equally present for him and always has been. Gosh, I’m getting deja vu. Don’t we have a thread on this already?

It is kinda odd. I learned a lot about the ties between Christian and Jewish faith traditions on this when I wrote the following blog article.

Biblical and Jewish Traditional Beliefs About Purgatory

As an aside I was told by a Jewish woman that the mourners Kaddish is not a prayer for the departed one.

Who or what is that prayer for?

My wife is an ELCA Lutheran Pastor, yes they pray for the dead. The Evangelical in ELCA does not imply a connection with what most people think of as Evangelical / Non-Denomination / Baptist churches. Worship in the ELCA and other Lutheran Churches is generally liturgical as in a Catholic Church, Anglican, Church of England, and a few others. The format of worship would be very familiar to any Catholic.

My wife has also been a hospital chaplain, I know she would have prayed in any way she could have for your step-father. I’m sorry that chaplain didn’t.

This statement does not preclude the possibility of Purgatory. Purgatory isn’t a “second chance.” It’s a process of purification. The souls in Purgatory are already saved.

I just love Pr. Weedon’s blog on a lot of issues of Lutheranism. this is no exception:



Andrew–This, which Publisher has written, is what I’m most familiar with as an Evangelical. I pray this way for my father who died last year, and also for deceased relatives, friends, and a boyfriend who died young----I regularly entrust them all to God’s merciful hands.

It comes across the same way to me, but we could charitably hope that the chaplain was just having a really off day. Irrespective of whether his particular brand of Protestantism believes in praying for the departed, loving one’s neighbour really necessitates doing so in that situation.

Do Protestants beleive that the soul at death instantly shoots off to heaven or hell, and our prayers cannot change the matter?

I know that Protestants do not beleive in the existence of purgatory, so they just stop praying?

Many Protestants do believe that, some for no better reason than to avoid The Evils of Popery!!1! Others, however, base their belief in their understanding of the Bible. Yet others, such as myself, think that the idea of Purgatory makes a lot of sense, but then Anglicans do pray for the departed.

I don’t believe in Purgatory, but if ever do find myself there, I will have tears of joy!

I may not quite be in heaven, but I know that my Lord is waiting for me.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.