Prayer - Part 3
Mathews Barnabas Metropolitan
Some Christians don’t pray for the departed souls, as they believe that the
souls are inactive. But the Holy Bible gives clear evidences proving that
the souls are active and that they can talk as the souls of Moses and Elijah
talked to our Lord on the mount of transfiguration (St. Lk. 9:30,31).
Some Christians think that if it is possible that the souls may be benefited
by the intercession of those on earth, people may become idle and careless
in their spiritual life in this world. In fact repentance is an experience
to be inspired by the love of Christ and not fear of hell. It is a change of
heart. St. Paul says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are
convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died
for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him
who for their sake, died and was raised” (II Cor. 5:14, 15).
1) The souls are praying
Since the souls are praying, they are not inactive. In the book of
Revelation we find as follows, “These (the souls of the departed) are they
who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and
made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the
throne of God and serve (pray) him day and night within his temple” (Rev.
7:14,15). To pray properly we need the help of the Holy Spirit, St. Paul
says, “Like-wise the Spirit (Holy Spirit) helps us in our weakness, for we
do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for
us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). Hence we have to pray for the
souls so that they may be helped in prayer by the Holy Spirit.
2) The souls can please God
St. Paul says that the souls continue to please God. “We are of good
courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the
Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him”
(II Cor 5:8,9). Apart from the Lord we cannot do anything. “For apart from
me you can do nothing” (St. Jn. 15:5) says our Lord. Hence we have to pray
for the souls so that they may be helped to please God.
At the sametime St. Paul continues to say that we will be judged according
to what we do in this world. “For we must all appear before the judgment
seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what
he has done in his body” (II Cor 5:10). This need not mean that there is no
possibility of repentance in the other world.
3) The souls can repent
If the souls are completely hardened in sin and have gone beyond redemption,
there will not be the possibility of repentance. But nobody knows whether
there will be anyone like that. But the fact that our Lord went to sinful
souls and preached the gospel, shows that there was the possibility for
repentance. “He (Jesus Christ) went and preached to the spirits in prison,
who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah,
during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is eight persons, were
saved through water” (I Pet. 3:19). From this we understand that the souls
can hear the word of God and repent. Hence it is our duty to pray for the
repentance of souls.
Nowhere in the Holy Bible is said that the souls will not repent. This does
not mean that we can postpone our repentance to the other world. St. Paul
says, “Behold now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the time of
salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). This is a call for immediate action. But this
passage is not to be considered as saying that there will not be repentance
in the other world. It is a risk to postpone repentance even for a moment.
The more and more we postpone repentance and continue to sin, it becomes
more and more difficult to repent.
4) The souls are in need of the work of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit fills us with God’s love. “God’s love has been poured into
our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).
Nowhere is it said that the Holy Spirit cannot fill the souls with God’s
love. Hence it is our duty to pray for the souls, so that they may be filled
with God’s love, through the working of the Holy Spirit.
5) Our souls have spiritual growth till the second coming of our Lord
There is spiritual growth in this world and the other world, till the second
coming of our Lord. St. John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it
does not yet appear, what we shall be, but we know that when he (our Lord)
appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I Jn. 3:2).
Hence we have to pray for the departed souls so that they may grow
6) Our Lord has bridged the gulf between paradise and hades
In the parable of “the Rich man and Lazarus”, Abraham says that there is a
gulf between paradise and hades. But the gulf was bridged by our Lord, by
going to the hades and preaching the gospel. We (including the souls in the
other world) are benefited by the prayers of others. But we should remember
that our final destiny depends on our response to the prompting of God, our
Heaven is the result of our becoming godly through God’s grace. Our Lord
says, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy maybe in you and that
your joy may be full. This is my commandment that you love one another as I
have love you” (St. Jn. 15:11,12).
Since there is the possibility that the souls in the other world will be
benefited through our prayers, it is a sin of omission, not to pray for
them. St. James says, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it,
for him it is a sin” (St. James 4:17). This means that we can have the joy
of our Lord through having the love we find in Him.