United Methodists have confidence that our deceased loved ones are in God’s keeping. We commend them to God’s mercy at the resurrection, give thanks to God for their lives, celebrate their witness as people of faith, and pray that we learn from their example.
There are differences among different cultures about whether or how the dead are remembered in prayer.
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In some congregations, the dead themselves may be remembered. In others, prayer will be offered for the families of those who have died for some period of time after the death. From Judaism, many Christians have continued a practice of remembrance throughout the first year after death, and then on the anniversary of their death after that.
And in some cultures-- notably many from Africa and South and Central America-- remembrance of the dead (the ancestors), as a means of honoring their memory and the ways they continue to be present to us, remains of vital importance in the prayer life of individuals and congregations. United Methodists encourage such culturally important acts of commemoration within congregations that include people of such cultures.
The United Methodist Book of Worship includes some prayers for the dead. A Litany for the Church and for the World strikes a balance on how we may remember the dead in prayer. Its petition reads:
"We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled, and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom."
On All Saints Day, many churches will read the names of church members and loved ones who have died in the past year. All Saints Day is an especially appropriate time to pray for the saints and faithful departed.
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.