On November 1 and 2, in many traditions at least, Christians celebrate the twin feasts of All Saints and All Souls. Among other things, this is a time to remember those who have departed, both from our faith communities and from our families. And for many, this includes prayer for the dead.
For much of my Christian life, I assumed that prayer for the dead was basically off limits (at best pointless; at worst, pagan). Why pray for the dead? Their eternal destiny has already been determined by their response to God in this life; so… what is left to pray for now that they have passed on? But as Moltmann reminds us in the clip below from the 2009 Emergent Village Conversation, throughout the history of the church, most Christians have not thought this way. Here Tony Jones asks Moltmann some questions about the nature of prayer, leading Moltmann to make two profound observations:
- The initiative in God’s blessing on us is always God’s (not ours). The hearing of God precedes our praying.
- The dead died; but they are not “dead” in the modern sense of gone and annihilated. They are present because Christ is Lord of the living and the dead.