Prayer for Eternal Rest: Ensure Your Loved Ones Rest in Peace

Graveyard, Portland, Dorset
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"Eternal Rest" is one of several Christian prayers for the dead that has been in use since the early days of Christianity. In Latin the prayer is known as "Requiem Æternam." It is recited after the death of a loved one as a way of asking God to bless the departed, guarantee their safe passage to heaven (or paradise), and ensure that they rest in peace.

Prayer and Variations

There are several versions of "Eternal Rest," including different translations of the original Latin prayer and variations. The version recited by Roman Catholics is:

"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
Amen."

If you are offering the prayer for a particular person, you can substitute "him" or "her" for "them."

The translation recited by Lutherans is:

"Rest eternal grant them, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
Amen."

The translation recited by Anglicans is:

"Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord:
And let light perpetual shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
Amen."

A variation of "Eternal Rest" is sometimes recited by Methodists during funeral services:

"Eternal God,
we praise you for the great company of all those
who have finished their course in faith
and now rest from their labor.
We praise you for those dear to us
whom we name in our hearts before you.
Especially we praise you for [Name],
whom you have graciously received into your presence.
To all of these, grant your peace.
Let perpetual light shine upon them;
and help us so to believe where we have not seen,
that your presence may lead us through our years,
and bring us at last with them
into the joy of your home
not made with hands but eternal in the heavens;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Background

Belief in an afterlife is an important aspect of Christianity. The faithful believe that after death, a person's soul or spirit continues on to another world. In Roman Catholicism, the state that one enters immediately after death is purgatory, a liminal zone where the deceased undergoes divine judgment. This judgment leads either to eternal damnation in hell or admission into heaven. Some Christians believe that purgatory is where the soul undergoes a final cleansing, or purification, before entering into heaven. This an explicit part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven."

Prayer for the dead is believed to assist the soul in this process of purification. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, souls that have "departed with faith, but without having had time to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance" may "be aided towards the attainment of a blessed resurrection by prayers offered in their behalf." Prayer for the dead has been part of Christian liturgy since the time of the early apostles.

This is not to say that all Christians pray for the dead. Many Protestant groups, for example, reject the practice, on the grounds that once a person has died they are sent to face judgment, and no intercession can be made on their behalf. The niblical support for this belief is found in Hebrews 9:27:

"[I]t is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment."

Wallace Thompson, secretary of the Evangelical Protestants Northern Ireland, states it more bluntly:

"[W]e believe, when death comes, a person either goes to be with Christ for all eternity, or into hell."

Adherents with this view regard prayer for the dead as both useless and a violation of biblical teachings.

Rest in Peace

The phrase "rest in peace" (in Latin, requiescat in pace), which appears in the prayer "Eternal Rest," is also used in traditional Christian liturgies and prayers such as the Requiem Mass. Since the eighth century, the phrase (sometimes abbreviated to R.I.P.) has been engraved on Christian tombstones. Some Christians use this saying as a request to God to grant the soul of the departed peace in the afterlife. Others use it as a general blessing for the dead.