The Space Between Life and Death

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Dear Readers,

What do you do, when you receive the news that a loved one hovers between life and death?

I open the Book of Common Prayer [BCP]:  It contains Scripture, for such a painful time as this.  In fact, Scripture represents eighty percent of the content of the BCP.  Scripture solidly informs the Creeds, Prayers, Statements of Faith, and Historic Documents.

Preserved through the centuries, the Book of Common Prayer bestows a benediction upon us, when prayer is exceedingly difficult.   The Book of Common Prayer offers clarity and direction to the anxious and grieving mind.  The carefully composed words of the prayers and the voices of the faithful who have come before us, impart to us strength, confidence, and trust in the Triune God.

In the Book of Common Prayer, we join our voices with all those who, through the ages and generations, have turned to the Book of Common Prayer in times of deepest grief and sorrow.

Over the past decades, since a friend first introduced to me the  Book of Common Prayer, the prayers have offered comfort and solace.  Below this meditation, I have copied the section of the BCP entitled, “Prayers for the Sick.”  []

Only a thin, translucent sheet of fine paper separates “Prayers for the Sick” and  “Ministration at the Time of Death.”  


John Donne contemplated the translucent space between life and death, in his Holy Sonnet Ten:

Holy Sonnets: Death, Be Not Proud


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


Through the long, dark night of vigil, sitting with my father, in 2006, I held in my hands the Book of Common Prayer and wondered, “Tomorrow, will it be time to turn the page?”

It was an honor for me to be present with my father, as he drew his last breath. Together, my sister, husband, and son gathered around his bed. I turned the page in the Book of Common Prayer and we prayed the prayers. We sang the hymns from the Anglican Hymnbook, which I had previously chosen. As generations of families had done before us, we ushered our loved one into the perpetual light of eternal life.

“One short sleep, we wake eternally.”

The space between life and death is translucent.

Keep these prayers with you, if you are praying for a loved one. If you are able to be present, bring these prayers [and hymns] to the Vigil. Send [email or snail mail] these prayers to those who are praying for their loved one.

Coram Deo,


Prayers for the Sick 

From the Book of Common Prayer

For a Sick Person

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servant N. for whom our prayers are desired.

Look upon him/her with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him/her with a sense of thy goodness; preserve him/her from the temptations of the enemy; and give him/her patience under his/her affliction.  In thy good time, restore him/her to health, and enable him/her to lead the residue of his/her life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally he/she may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Recovery from Sickness

O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers:  Mercifully accept our prayers, and grant to your servant N. the help of your power, that his/her sickness may be turned into health, and our sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 or this

O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity:  Be present in your goodness with your servant N., that his weakness may be banished and his strength restored; and that, his health being renewed, he may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For a Sick Child

Heavenly Father, watch with us over your child N., and grant that he may be restored to that perfect health which it is yours alone to give; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 or this

Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of the sheep, you gather the lambs in your arms and carry them in your bosom:  We commend to your loving care this child N.  Relieve his pain,

guard him from all danger, restore to him your gifts of gladness and strength, and raise him up to a life of service to you.  Hear us, we pray, for your dear Name’s sake.  Amen.

 Before an Operation

Almighty God our heavenly Father, graciously comfort your servant N. in his suffering, and bless the means made use of for his cure. Fill his heart with confidence that, though at times he may be afraid, he yet may put his trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or this

Strengthen your servant N., O God, to do what he has to do and bear what he has to bear; that, accepting your healing gifts through the skill of surgeons and nurses, he may be restored to usefulness in your world with a thankful heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Strength and Confidence

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servant N., and give your power of healing to those who minister to his needs, that he may be strengthened in his weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For the Sanctification of Illness

Sanctify, O Lord, the sickness of your servant N., that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith and seriousness to his repentance; and grant that he may live with you in everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Health of Body and Soul

May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength.  May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

For Doctors and Nurses

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life‑giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Thanksgiving for a Beginning of Recovery

O Lord, your compassions never fail and your mercies are new every morning:  We give you thanks for giving our brother (sister) N. both relief from pain and hope of health

renewed.  Continue in him, we pray, the good work you have begun; that he, daily increasing in bodily strength, and rejoicing in your goodness, may so order his life and conduct that he may always think and do those things that please you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers for use by a Sick Person

For Trust in God

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

In Pain

Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you hallowed earthly pain and gave us the example of obedience to your Father’s will:  Be near me in my time of weakness and pain;

sustain me by your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail; heal me according to your will; and help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.

For Sleep

O heavenly Father, you give your children sleep for the refreshing of soul and body: Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a sense of your presence, that in the hours of silence I may enjoy the blessed assurance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

In the Morning

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.  Amen.

Ministration at the Time of Death

When a person is near death, the Minister of the Congregation should be notified, in order that the ministrations of the Church may be provided. 

A Prayer for a Person near Death

Almighty God, look on this your servant, lying in great weakness, and comfort him/her with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Litany at the Time of Death

When possible, it is desirable that members of the family and friends come together to join in the Litany.

God the Father,

Have mercy on your servant.

God the Son,

Have mercy on your servant.

God the Holy Spirit,

Have mercy on your servant.

Holy Trinity, one God,

Have mercy on your servant.

From all evil, from all sin, from all tribulation,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

By your holy Incarnation, by your Cross and Passion, by your precious Death and Burial,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

By your glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the Coming of the Holy Spirit,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

We sinners beseech you to hear us, Lord Christ: That it may please you to deliver the soul of your servant from the power of evil, and from eternal death,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you mercifully to pardon all his/her sins,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to grant him/her a place of refreshment and everlasting blessedness,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to give him/her joy and gladness in your kingdom, with your saints in light,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

Jesus, Lamb of God:

Have mercy on him/her.

Jesus, bearer of our sins:

Have mercy on him/her.

Jesus, redeemer of the world:

Give him/her your peace.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Officiant and People:

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.

The Officiant says this Collect:

Let us pray.

Deliver your servant, N., O Sovereign Lord Christ, from all evil, and set him/her free from every bond; that he/she may rest with all your saints in the eternal habitations; where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

A Commendation at the Time of Death

Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;

In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you;

In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;

In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you;

May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.

A Commendatory Prayer

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant N.  Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him/her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.  Amen.

May his/her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


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Filed under Life and Death, Liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer, theology and doxology

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