The most popular funeral prayers in the UK

The most popular funeral prayers in the UK

by Jon Crawford2023-12-120

Words of Comfort

In times of loss, when words falter and emotions run deep, funeral prayers offer an anchor of comfort. They provide a way to express the inexpressible, to find solace in shared traditions and to honour the lives that have touched our own. 

In this helpful guide we take a look at some of the most popular funeral prayers used in the UK. From the timeless comfort of the Lord’s Prayer to the heartfelt sentiments of the Kaddish, to non-religious funeral blessings, each has its own power to heal and unite. 

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We hope you will find inspiration within this guide and that it helps when selecting the perfect prayers for a memorable farewell. 

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Religious funeral prayers

Funeral prayers can transcend cultural and religious boundaries, bringing people together in times of mourning. In the United Kingdom, a country steeped in a rich tapestry of faiths and beliefs, the most popular funeral prayers reflect the diverse population. From Christian traditions, such as the Church of England and Catholicism, to Muslim, Hindu and Jewish readings, we will start with a look at religious prayers.

Christian Funeral prayers

Whatever our faith, or even if we are not religious, most of us living in the UK will have attended a church funeral or a Christian service at a crematorium. These common worship prayers might be familiar to you from such a funeral as they are popular choices in the UK.

Popular Church of England funeral prayers

The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most well-known Christian prayers for a funeral and is often included in funeral services. It serves as a reminder of the hope for God’s kingdom and his comforting presence. The worship leader and the mourners in the congregation usually recite it together.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

Psalm 23 - also known as the Shepherd's Psalm

This well-known psalm offers a sense of serenity and comfort. It speaks of God as the good shepherd, of still waters and quiet pastures and is a perennial favourite at funeral services in the UK.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

A Collect for the Dead

O MERCIFUL God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who is the resurrection and the life; 
in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; 
and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; 
who also hath taught us (by his holy Apostle Saint Paul) not to be sorry, 
as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: 
We meekly beseech thee, O Father, 
to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; 
that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, 
as our hope is this our brother doth; 
and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, 
we may be found acceptable in thy sight, and receive that blessing, 
which thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, 
saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, 
receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world: 
Grant this, we beseech thee, 
O merciful Father,
through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. 

A Prayer for the Bereaved

Bless those who mourn the death of a relative or friend and feel that with this loss their lives are incomplete. 
Bless those who mourn, and fill these empty hearts with pleasant memories, the sound of laughter, sunshine and happier days. 
Bless those who mourn, and heal their brokenness with the soothing balm of your gentle touch, that they might know shalom, wholeness, peace. Amen.

Bidding prayers for a funeral in the UK

Bidding prayers are a common form of prayer in the Christian tradition, used by both Anglicans and Catholics at funerals in the UK. The minister or priest leads the prayer, telling the congregation what to pray for and they generally repeat the final line of each verse.

A popular Church of England funeral bidding prayer:

God of mercy, Lord of life,
you have made us in your image
to reflect your truth and light:
we give you thanks for (name of deceased),
for the grace and mercy he/she received from you,
for all that was good in his/her life,
for the memories we treasure today.

[Especially we thank you]

[Lord, in your mercy
All:  hear our prayer.]

You promised eternal life to those who believe.
Remember for good this your servant (name of deceased)
as we also remember him/her.
Bring all who rest in Christ
into the fullness of your kingdom
where sins have been forgiven
and death is no more.

[Lord, in your mercy
All: hear our prayer.]

Your mighty power brings joy out of grief
and life out of death.
Look in mercy on [surviving family members … and] all who mourn.
Give them patient faith in times of darkness.
Strengthen them with the knowledge of your love.

[Lord, in your mercy
All: hear our prayer.]

You are tender towards your children
and your mercy is over all your works.
Heal the memories of hurt and failure.
Give us the wisdom and grace to use aright
the time that is left to us here on earth,
to turn to Christ and follow in his steps
in the way that leads to everlasting life.

[Lord, in your mercy
All: hear our prayer.]
All: God of mercy, entrusting into your hands all that you have made
and rejoicing in our communion with all your faithful people,
We make our prayers through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

A bidding prayer for a Catholic funeral mass

A Catholic Bidding Prayer for the Deceased 

For our brother/sister [Name], who was given the promise of eternal life in Baptism, that he/ she may be admitted to the company of the saints 
We pray to the Lord... 

All: Lord, hear our prayer. 

For [Name], who lived a life of generosity and dedication to God and his/her family, that he/she may be welcomed with love and joy into the heavenly home of the Eternal Father, We pray to the Lord... 
All: Lord, hear our prayer. 

For  [Name] whose faith sustained him/her during this earthly life, that he/she may be received by the saints with love and joy into the eternal dwelling place prepared for him/ her. 
We pray to the Lord... 

All: Lord, hear our prayer.

The most popular Jewish funeral prayers

Jewish attitudes towards death and grieving are deeply rooted in tradition and community support. When a loved one passes away, their body must be buried within 24 hours if possible and grieving is a process that extends beyond the funeral ceremony and unites families and communities. Here are some of the most common prayers that may be included at a Jewish funeral in the UK.

Mourners Kaddish

This Kaddish is common at Jewish funerals in the UK. It speaks of the enduring power of faith, even in the face of loss, and the universal yearning for peace.

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.

May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honoured, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

El Malei Rachamim: 

This prayer invokes God's mercy and asks for the soul of the departed to find peace and rest in the afterlife. It is often recited by a rabbi or officiant at the graveside during the funeral service or by family members when visiting the grave of a loved one.

God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest upon the Divine Presence’s wings, within the range of the holy, pure and glorious, whose shining resemble the sky’s, to the soul of [Name] son/daughter of (Hebrew name of father) for a charity was given to the memory of his soul. 

Therefore, the Master of Mercy will protect him forever, from behind the hiding of his/her wings, and will tie his/her soul with the rope of life. 

The Everlasting is his heritage, and he shall rest peacefully upon his/her lying place, and let us say: Amen.

The most popular Hindu funeral prayers and mantras

Like all ceremonies, no two Hindu funerals are identical and the prayers will vary according to family traditions and culture, but the following Hindu funeral prayers - or mantras/chants - will often be recited at the ceremony and in the mourning period.

Om Namo Narayanaya

The Hindu funeral mantra for the dying is Om Namo Narayana’ya. Lord Narayana is the Supreme God of Hinduism. The mantra brings peace to the dying or deceased as they return to God and also offers comfort and to those grieving. At a Hindu funeral, attendees may chant the mantra:

Om Namo Narayanaya

which more specifically translates to “I bow to Lord Narayana.” Chanting this phrase helps give comfort to those grieving and peace to the deceased. In fact, the word “Narayanaya” represents the final resting place for those who pass away.

Moksha Prayer (Prayer for Liberation)

This prayer is recited to seek liberation of the departed soul from the cycle of birth and death (samsara) and to attain moksha, which is the ultimate spiritual liberation. It is a heartfelt plea for the soul’s journey to a state of eternal bliss and unity with the divine.

Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most sacred and revered mantras in Hinduism. While it is recited in various contexts, it is often chanted during Hindu funerals as a way to invoke divine blessings, seek guidance for the soul's journey, and offer spiritual support to the grieving family.

Popular blessings and readings for non-religious funerals

Non-religious or humanist funeral ceremonies and celebrations of life are increasingly common in the UK. They present a secular way to celebrate the life of a loved one and take many forms according to the character of the person who they are honouring and the wishes of their family and friends. 

Rather than use religious prayers, readings for a non-religious funeral can be from any source that fits the tone appropriately. Poems, songs, literature and unique verses written for the occasion by family and friends or a celebrant can all play a key role in the ceremony.

Irish Blessing 

This is a popular reading at funerals in the UK for both religious and non-religious ceremonies. It can be tailored to suit either form of service. The first verse includes the line “ … May God hold you in the palm of his hand”, but the third verse, below, is ideal for a non-religious service for its simple beauty.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home,
And may the land of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

Dear Lovely Death by Langston Hughes
Poems and other readings are usually used instead of prayers at non-religious funerals in the UK and this short piece by American poet Lanston Hughes is a popular choice. It speaks of death not ending things, merely transforming them.

Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing -
Never to kill -
Only to change
Into some other thing
This suffering flesh,
To make it either more or less,
But not again the same -
Dear lovely Death,
Change is thy other name.

Popular funeral prayers for family members 

If you are arranging a funeral for your own father or another man who was a devoted father to his children, there are many options to consider. If he was religious, a short Bible reading or a prayer may be the best fit, but if the service is less traditional your choice is unlimited.

Epitaph to a Friend by Robert Burns

 A father is often a best friend too, someone to be admired. This short passage by Robert Burns encompasses this and is a popular reading at a funeral for a father in the UK.

An honest man here lies at rest
As e’er God with his image blest;
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so informed:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

There are many readings to choose from when arranging a funeral for a loving mother but this short verse from the Bible is a popular choice in the UK. It speaks of being reunited and as such offers comfort to those who may have lost their mother, or another dear family member.

Reading from John 14:1-3

Let not your hearts be troubled;
believe in God, believe also in Me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms;
if it were not so, would I have told
you that I go and prepare a place
for you?
And when I go and prepare a place
for you, I will come again and will
take you to Myself, that where I am
you may be also.

Short prayers for funerals

Sometimes less is more. A short, poignant prayer or verse at a funeral ceremony can encapsulate the mood of all present. Below are some examples you may wish to use or adapt.

Prayer for Peace

As we say goodbye to [Name], we pray for peace in our hearts and our world. 
May the pain of loss be eased by the warmth of cherished memories. 
Grant us the strength to carry forward their legacy of love and kindness.

Prayer for Comfort

Grant us strength in this moment of sorrow. 
May the memories we hold dear bring us comfort. 
We seek solace in the knowledge that love endures beyond this life. 
May [Name] find eternal peace, and may their light forever shine in our hearts.

Prayer for Comfort (II)

Merciful Father,
hear our prayers and comfort us;
renew our trust in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead;
strengthen our faith
that [Name] and all who have died in the love of Christ
will share in his resurrection;
who lives and reigns with you,
now and forever. 

Prayer of Gratitude 

With gratitude, we remember the life of [Name]. 
We thank the universe for the gift of their presence in our lives. 
May we find solace in the shared moments of joy, and may [Name] rest in eternal peace.
In our sadness and with thanksgiving, we will remember them.

We hope our exploration of some of the most popular funeral prayers has been useful and may assist you in planning a heartfelt farewell for your loved one. 

The breadth of the prayers and readings included here reflect the rich tapestry of faiths and beliefs that make up the UK’s diverse population, with a common thread. They remind us of the importance of love, compassion and unity in times of loss, and to find beauty in the memory of the departed.

As bereaved people navigate the delicate balance of grief and remembrance these prayers have continued to offer solace and strength to those in need.

If you need assistance with any aspect of planning a funeral, remember you can contact us at any time for compassionate advice and non-binding costings, with no strings attached.

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