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COLEMAN: How to pray when a church member dies - Odessa American: Columns

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COLEMAN: How to pray when a church member dies

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Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2021 4:30 am

Several years ago, one of the former pastors of my church passed away. I was honored to preach his funeral, and equally honored to lead our church in praying for his wife and family. This second task, leading our church to pray for his wife and family, got me thinking.

When someone dies we often tell their loved ones, “I’ll be praying for you.” But I wonder, do we really pray for them? And if so what do we actually ask God to do? How should you pray when one of your church members dies?

As I wrestled with these questions, I developed a list of seven ways to pray when a church member dies. I published that list on my blog, regularpastor.com. Five years later the post continues to get “clicks.” Over the last year, those “clicks” have increased, presumably because people are dealing with COVID deaths and wondering how they ought to pray. If that’s you, here are a few suggestions on how you might pray when a member of your churches dies.

First, ask God to comfort the family as they grieve. Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Second, ask God to equip the family to comfort others. Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians that God, “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Third, thank God for the time that was given. It really doesn’t matter if a person dies “too soon” or “old and full of years.” You’ll always wish you had more time. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thankful for the time you did have. Long or short, the time you had was a gift from God (James 1:17).

Fourth, pray for those who lead in the funeral service. As someone who speaks at funerals, I assure you these prayers are appreciated. It is a delicate task to honor a life well lived, to glorify Jesus (not people), and to proclaim the truth (Ephesians 6:19).

Fifth, ask God to raise up more laborers for the harvest. When a faithful church member dies, it’s good to ask God to raise up a “Joshua” to follow “Moses.” Hopefully training and discipleship are already in place to prepare a new generation, but a funeral is certainly a good time to ask God to send new laborers (Matthew 9:38).

Sixth, stop and reflect on the brevity of your life. Anytime you attend a funeral you should stop and ask God to give you wisdom. We need the Lord to show us areas of our life where we need to change, repent, and do better (James 4:14).

Seventh, pray that the lives impacted by the deceased person would continue to bear fruit. I prayed this last week. I thought about the many lives that were impacted by our former pastor, and I prayed that these lives would continue to bring glory to Jesus. I prayed that those who received the truth would be faithful to pass it on to a new generation who can in turn teach others (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

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