Prayer during times of grief

by Emily Vanden Heuvel

I usually try not to dwell on posts from news outlets on my social media feeds because they often make me feel cynical and afraid; nevertheless, I know that some news is essential to engage with and process. The headlines from the last couple of weeks have been particularly painful to read: reports of numerous mass shootings in the US; the continued violence in Ukraine, Ethiopia, and the Middle East; and the horrific news that at least 50 people were gunned down during a church service in Nigeria on Sunday. My heart aches when I think about the victims and the collateral damage left by violence—grieving parents, families torn apart, and communities devastated. I feel helpless and at a loss for words. I often don’t even know what to say when I pray.

Scripture as a guide

Recently, our team has been preparing a new set of ebooks about prayer during times of grief. The prayer books include a daily promise from God’s Word and a short prayer. It follows this format because I’ve found that using Scripture to guide my prayers is very helpful when I can’t find the words to pray.

I hope these entries from our ebooks will bless you and help direct your prayers as you intercede for those who are grieving.

Isaiah 54:10

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Loving and powerful God, at times my world seems to be shaking around me like an earthquake. Replace my fear with the knowledge that neither shaken mountains nor flattened hills can take me away from your unfailing love. Thank you for the promise of your peace and compassion. I choose to rest in you. In the name of the risen Christ, Amen.
Psalm 42:11

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

God of hope, at times I wonder if this sadness will ever end; then I remember that my hope—my only hope—is in you, and I choose to praise you. Scripture says you delight in your people. I know that when I praise you, I am in your presence even in my deep sadness. Thank you for being my Savior and my God. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Psalm 31:9-16

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief (Psalm 31:9).

Father, I pray today for those whose eyes have grown weak with sorrow, whose soul and body are weighed down by grief, and whose strength may be failing. Lord, pour out your mercy upon them. Let your face shine upon them and save them in your unfailing love. Empower them to trust in you, to say that “you are my God,” and “my times are in your hands.” In the name of our merciful Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Psalm 62:1-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge (Psalm 62:5-7).

Loving Father, I pray today that those who are grieving may find rest in you alone. Be their rock, salvation, and fortress so that they will not be shaken by any assaults from the evil one. Empower them each day to trust in you, to pour their heart out to you, for you are our refuge. Help them recognize any unacknowledged anger and give them courage to express all the complicated emotions that come with grief and loss. In the strong name of your Son, our Savior, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Lamentations 3:19-23

I remember my afflictions… yet I call this to mind and I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:21-23).

Heavenly Father, in the midst of whatever afflictions they might be facing, may they experience your hope, mercy, and compassion afresh and anew in this day and in the days to come. Give them the courage to continue to cry out to you, knowing that you hear. In the name of the Father of compassion, I pray, Amen.

God is always listening

I hope these promises and prayers encourage you to cry out to God who is always listening. May feelings of helplessness be replaced by an urge to intercede for others. Thank you for your dedication to pray for others.

If you're grieving or looking for comfort, we encourage you to use this resource from our sister program., Groundwork: Comfort in Times of Community Crisis.