Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pray for the Dead as if They Were Still Alive

I just read this in Heather King's Redeemed:

"I read a reflection by Dorothy Day . . . that because God transcends time, we can pray for the dead as if they were still alive; we can pray for God to be close to them with respect to problems or illnesses or crises they had when they were still alive, and the prayer somehow helps them with those problems they had when they were still alive."

Has anyone ever heard of this before? I hadn't, and I liked it.

9 comments:

Mac said...

I haven't heard it from anywhere else, but I've thought it up on my own. It seems logical, really.

Pentimento said...

I don't understand it, but there's so little I understand about God that it makes perfect sense really. But how can it benefit the dead to have their lives on earth healed if they're no longer on earth? That's my big question.

Janet said...

Is she saying that it helps them now, in Purgatory, or that it can help them then, while they are still alive?

It's impossible to get our spatial/temporal minds around the notion of being outside of space and time, but you can get a glimpse of the possibilities that "outsideness" would create. Your prayers to God don't reach Him before or after a certain thing happened/happens, they reach Him in the eternal now. There wouldn't be any reason why prayers sent into that "now" could not have been present to someone else then. Not that you would exactly be changing the past, but that those prayers were present to that person at that time. C. S. Lewis, in "Letters to Malcolm," said that he though we could pray for things that already happened as long as we did not pray for a different outcome than the one we knew happened. All of this can really make you dizzy.

AMDG,
Janet

Pentimento said...

It's another one for the quantum phycisists. If outcomes were changed, would we even know it if the people for whom we're praying are now dead? And what good do our prayers for them then do them then or now, if they're no longer living in the form or state that they were?

Janet said...

What I'm saying (very poorly, I'm sure) and what I believe what Day was saying is that our prayers now can help them then.


AMDG,
Janet

Pentimento said...

I don't understand it, but I love it and I'm going to do it.

Dave said...

Prayers help. That's good enough for me.

cnb said...

I first learned to pray in this way while reading Augustine's Confessions. As I read, I found myself praying for him, praying that he would find his way back to God. After her death, Augustine also asks the reader to pray for his mother Monica. She is in heaven now, and doesn't need our prayers any longer, but I pray for her anyway, as she was in the past.

I agree with Mac and Janet that if God is eternal, experiencing all time at once, there is no reason why our prayers now may not assist someone in the past. I'm not aware of any theology on this point, but it makes sense to me.

Pentimento said...

This is a beautiful observation. Thank you.

Now: do you think that we can pray for people still living in this way, i.e., pray for them as they were, in difficulties which they may no longer be facing?