We pray for the dying so that they may be strengthened in their final hours and persevere to the end.
Death can be a scary event in a person’s life, especially when they know they are dying and will depart from this life at any moment. This is why it is extremely important to pray for those who are dying, asking God to pour out his grace upon the suffering soul.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains why the dying need our prayers in its section on the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.
The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.CCC 1520
Satan will do whatever he can to lure a dying person away from God in their last moments. Feelings of despair and loneliness can make a person think that God has abandoned them.
Furthermore, feelings of shame and unworthiness can cripple an individual on death’s door. They may think that because of the weight of their sins, they are unable to go to Heaven.
St. John Paul II notes in his Letter to the Elderly that death can bring with it a certain fear of the unknown that is difficult to bear.
As the Council observed: “It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence becomes most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction”. This anguish would indeed be inconsolable were death complete destruction, the end of everything. Death thus forces men and women to ask themselves fundamental questions about the meaning of life itself. What is on the other side of the shadowy wall of death? Does death represent the definitive end of life or does something lie beyond it?
Those who are dying are in need of our prayers to face such questions with peace and serenity. They need the grace of God to end this life without fear of the unknown.
Instead, they can die in peace knowing that Jesus has conquered death and welcomes them into his everlasting abode.