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can Lutherans pray the Office of the Dead

Discussion in 'LCMS / WELS / ELS / LCC' started by The Red Death, Jul 16, 2020.

  1. The Red Death

    The Red Death New Member

    hi all. Im a New Lutheran (or rather I worship at a Lutheran Church and am planning on formalising my commitment to the Lutheran Faith later this year) from Australia.

    I was wondering what is the stance of Lutherans on the 'Office of the dead'???

    I don't believe in Purgatory as the Papists do but I do believe in praying for those have fallen asleep in the Lord.

    Ive gone through the Traditional Papist Office of the dead and I cant find anything that makes reference to purgatory, I have also seen some unofficial Anglican attempts online at a Anglican office of the dead.
    I was wondering can a Lutheran pray the office for the dead?...especially considering all the death in the world from covid 19
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  2. tampasteve

    tampasteve ✞ ✞ Staff Member Administrator CF Senior Ambassador Angels Team Supporter

    United States
    There is not an official stance that I am aware of. That said, Luther allowed for prayers for the dead, but did not allow (or believe in) prayers for the dead in "Purgatory". Luther was trying to distance believers from the practices and superstitions of the time that involved prayers and actions to help dead believers get out or shorten their time in Purgatory. However, even though his statements would imply it is OK, the later theology developed would preclude it.

    Luther has some prayers for it too, here is one:
    "Dear God, if the departed souls be in a state that they yet may be helped then I pray that you would be gracious. When you have thus prayed once or twice, then let it be sufficient and commend them unto God."

    I think that it is left to the conscience of the believer. If you get spiritual value out of it, and the purpose is not to "release someone from Purgatory", if you find comfort in it, then I don't see the problem.
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  3. Daniel9v9


    Hey, welcome! :)

    That's a good question - Perhaps someone else can give you a better answer, but the short of it is, yes/no.

    That is, no, not in a Roman Catholic sense, so you probably won't find this terminology used often in the Lutheran tradition. The Roman teaching of holding Mass for the dead in Purgatory is rejected in our Confessions. (Augsburg Confessions - Article XXIV: Of the Mass)

    However, yes, to the degree that we do maintain similar themes to the Anglican burial rite, which is formed out of the Office of the Dead. We also celebrate All Saints' day, dedicated to the Church Triumphant (The Church members who are with Christ now). And theologically, we do believe in one holy catholic Church and the communion of saints, acknowledging the unity of the Church in heaven and on earth, and throughout all time, which is reflected in our liturgy and rites.

    Basically, the Lutheran position on the issue is similar to our stance on the celebration of saints. We certainly do celebrate and remember those before us with thanksgiving and contemplation, but, given that the saints are with Christ, they don't need our prayer. Nor can they intercede for us. There is no example, command or promise for praying to the dead in Scriptures. So this particular rite has more or less become obsolete under the Lutheran system. Or really, any system that rejects Purgatory.

    So, in short, we do remember and give thanks for the Triumphant, and there is an understanding where we all worship God together - but we don't generally pray for and certainly not to them, as that's really a concept that only fits in the Roman framework.

    With respect to our current situation regarding Covid, I think perhaps the Kyrie could be more appropriate than the Office of the Dead, but I see no reason why we can't remember the dead in prayer and pray for the bereaved. Hope that helps!
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2020
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  4. The Red Death

    The Red Death New Member

    thanks guys I appreciate it
  5. twin.spin

    twin.spin Trust the LORD and not on your own understanding

    United States
    This from the Wisconsin Ev. Lutheran Synod (WELS) q\a concerning praying for the dead:
    Search Q&A – WELS

    We do not pray for those who have died because in the case of Christians those prayers are unnecessary, and in regard to unbelievers those prayers are futile.

    When death occurs, judgment also takes place (Luke 16:19-31; Hebrews 9:27). When people die, their souls are immediately in heaven or hell. There is no intermediate state. There is no need to pray for anyone who is in heaven; theirs is a perfect existence in the presence of God. It would do no good to pray for someone whom we believe to be in hell; God’s judgment is final and our prayers would not affect their condition.

    Of course, if people misunderstand what the Bible says about salvation, they will likely misuse prayer in praying for those who have died. If people think that they—in any way—contribute to their salvation, there will be doubt. Questions and requests like these might then arise: “Have I done enough?” “Can I do enough?” “Do something for me after I die, like praying for me.”

    How sad that is. Scripture presents salvation as an accomplished fact and truth. Jesus lived up to his name which means “Savior.” He won our salvation. He announced that on the cross when he cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Salvation is God’s doing (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). Because Jesus did everything necessary for our salvation, Christians can be absolutely sure that when death comes, they will be in heaven. We have the Lord’s own word on that (Mark 16:16; John 3:16; 5:24).
  6. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

    Traditional forms of the Lutheran funeral and committal services; the rite of blessing a grave, blessing a cemetery, are rich with such prayers. Most funerals I have been at in the Lutheran tradition contain the Requiem, asking that eternal rest and perpetual light be upon the faithful departed.

    As all have said, we can not change the outcome of where the immortal soul might spend eternity; rather these prayers express our faith in the work and promise of Christ that by faith we are saved. Such prayers are not prayed in a desperate last minute attempt to save a deceased person, but are more of a confession of faith. I forget which, but either 1st or 2nd Maccabees show us that the faithful have always prayed for the dead. Stark's prayer book contains prayers for the dead also.

    As long as such prayers come from our faith and trust in God's promises, there is no problem; it is when we count on our prayers to change the will and judgement of God, that it becomes a sin to pray for the dead, because we are displacing God's will with our own.