It seems like we blinked once and spring is upon us — temperatures are beginning to heat up, graduates are walking the stage, and suddenly we're rounding the corner of the last weekend in May. That date on the calendar, of course, can only mean one thing: Memorial Day is this Monday. While the holiday is widely appreciated for providing a long weekend right when we're starting to get the summer twitch, the real meaning of the day is much deeper. For those looking to thoughtfully commemorate the lives of fallen military veterans, Memorial Day prayers can be a meaningful addition to your observance plans.
The origins of Memorial Day — an exclusively American holiday — go back to the years following the Civil War, when it was known as Decoration Day, according to History.com. It officially became a federal holiday in 1971 and has since been most frequently observed by visiting cemeteries or other memorial sites, holding family gatherings, and, of course, having parades.
Whether you're planning a family event to grieve the loss of a loved one, a faith service, a citywide memorial, or simply want a quiet and personal way to honor the special day, you're sure to find what you need in the list below.
1. A Prayer For Interfaith Gatherings
"In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts, let each of us name and call on the One whose power over us is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing.
You who created us, who sustain us, who call us to live in peace, hear our prayer this day.
Hear our prayer for all who have died, whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone.
Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others ahead of their own and give us hearts as generous as theirs."
Read the entire prayer by Austin Fleming here.
2. A Prayer For Catholic Gatherings
"God of power and mercy,
you destroy war and put down earthly pride.
Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
that we may all deserve to be called your sons and daughters.
Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord."
3. A Prayer For Jewish Gatherings
We thank our soldiers, sailors, and pilots, for doing that which we wish never needed to be done.
And we pray for a world where time and talent, strength, and intellect, can be spent in fighting disease, defeating poverty, and defending the downtrodden without having to take up arms.
God of Peace and War, Concord and Conflict, Hope and Heartbreak;
We pray that the sacrifices of our fallen will forever be remembered, and that recognition of our veterans not merely convey thanks but demonstrate it.
May we not merely “proclaim peace to those near and far” but bring peace by doing the work required to realize it.
May this be our blessing and let us say:
Read the entire prayer by Rabbi David Wirtschafter here.
4. A Prayer For Evangelical Gatherings
Gracious, Sovereign God, Lord of all nations,
On this Memorial Day, we pause to reflect upon our blessings as a nation and the high cost of those blessings.
We offer our prayers of thanks and intercession.
Thank you for the freedom we enjoy in this country, for opportunities to flourish, and for the security of our land.
Thank you for those who have served in the armed services of our country, risking their lives for our liberty.
Thank you for those who have given their lives in service to our country, sacrificing in such a costly way for the sake of others, including me.
Thank you for those who have given their lives so that those who live in other countries might experience freedom from tyranny.
Thank you for a day set apart, not just for celebration, but also for solemn remembrance as we consider the sacrifices of so many in our military.
Read the entire prayer here.
5. A Prayer For Peacemaking Gatherings
On this Memorial Day of
remembrance and reconciliation,
we are confident that God has taken
all these men, women, and beings
into Her warm embrace.
We hold them all in our hearts
and are thankful to them
for trying to keep the peace
according to their inner lights.
So be it.
Read the entire prayer by Frederic Brussat here.