Should We Pray FOR (or TO) those who have died”


Dr. John Hoole



Many Christians have been taught that it is their responsibility  to pray either FOR or TO those who have already died. Let me say at the very beginning, both of these practices are completely unbiblical.

Praying To The Dead


First, Scripture says we are not to attempt communicating  with the spirits of the dead.


According to Old Testament Jewish laws, attempting to do so was punishable by death .


Deuteronomy 18:11 (NIV) speaks of those who…


11 casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.


The last five words, “who consults with the dead,” is in other translations rendered “Necromancy.”  The Greek word for cemetery is “necropolis” – the place of the dead. Necromancy is the practice of communicating with the dead. God also judged Saul for this practice (1 Samuel 28).


Since we are not to speak with spirits or attempt to contact the dead, believe it is then wrong to pray directly to departed loved ones. It would also seem to follow that asking God to speak to the spirits of loved ones on our behalf is neither helpful nor necessary.


Praying For The Dead


Praying for the dead is also not a biblical concept. Our prayers have no bearing on someone once he or she has died. The reality is that, at the point of death, one’s eternal destiny is confirmed. Either he or she is saved through faith in Christ and is in heaven where he is experiencing rest and joy in God’s presence,or he is in torment in hell.

Where we go after we die will be determined in this life. Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day.

John 8:24 NKJV


24    Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."


If they did not believe in who Jesus was, they would die without any further chance to believe. Their spiritual condition at death cannot be changed thereafter.


Over the last couple of lessons, we have looked at the story in Luke 16 about the death of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and touch it to his tongue. What did Abraham say?


Luke 16:26 NKJV


26    And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'


Once a person has gone to either the place of torment or in paradise, it is never possible to thereafter go from one to the other. Their eternal destiny has been fixed at death. The condition of a person after death cannot be changed either by themselves or by the prayers of a living loved one.


2 Corinthians 6:2b NKJV


2.  Behold, now (while still living) is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.




Roman Catholic theology, for example, allows for prayers both to the dead and on behalf of them. But even Catholic authorities admit that there is no explicit authorization for prayers on behalf of the dead in the sixty-six books of canonical Scripture.


Instead, they appeal to the Apocrypha (2 Maccabees 12:45), church tradition, the decree of the Council of Trent, etc., to defend the practice.