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Popular Bible Readings, Christian Funeral Readings & Songs

Last updated 3rd November 2021

5 min read

When planning a Christian funeral for a loved one, Bible readings, psalms and Christian poetry help us to find the words to celebrate their life, remember their faith, and mourn their passing. Their words evoke memories and quiet reflection, but carry a message of hope to encourage those who attend the funeral.

When deciding which scriptures, hymns or other readings to include, you may wish to start with personal favourites of your loved one, as these will carry special memories of moments in their life, or the things they liked to do.

But, with so much to think about when planning a funeral, it can be helpful to have a starting place – to see the sorts of messages that have brought comfort to many congregations for decades.

We’ve brought together a selection of religious readings, poems and songs to inspire you, helping you to put together a beautiful, meaningful send off for your loved one. We’ve included a snippet of background to each one so that you can choose the readings that best reflect your loved one’s life.

If you’re looking for a particular type of reading, you can use the links here to jump to that part of the page.

Funeral Psalms

Popular Bible readings for funerals

Religious funeral poems

Extracts from Christian Books

Hymns to play at a funeral

Other Christian funeral songs

Funeral Psalms

The Bible’s Book of Psalms is a diverse collection of 150 poems, covering themes from joy and celebration, to quiet reflection and mourning. The honesty and emotion of the psalmists’ writing is a universal message that still resonates with modern readers, which is why passages like these ones are still popular choices for funerals.

Psalm 23

Psalm 27

Psalm 116

Quick note on the Bible text used below

There are many different English translations of the Bible used commonly in the UK today. The text below is taken from the New International Version (NIV), which is one of the most widely used modern English translations in the world. If you want a more traditional reading, search for the psalms and scriptures below in the King James Version (KJV) of the text.

Psalm 23 - The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23 is one of the most famous Psalms in the Bible, and a popular choice for many occasions, including funerals. Its peaceful message recalls the faith of the person who has died, and gives hope to those who are attending the funeral. This Psalm can also be set to music if you want to sing it as a hymn.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 27 - The Lord is My Light

Psalm 27 is a poem of trust and confidence, encouraging listeners not to be afraid, even in the face of death. It is a good choice for funerals where you or your loved one want to bring hope to those attending, and to lift their spirits, doing so in a gentle, reflective way.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 116 - I Love the Lord, for He Heard My Voice

Psalm 116 is a prayer of thanksgiving, and as a funeral Psalm it invites listeners to look forward to a time when they are able to be free from their sorrow. At the same time, the psalmist is sensitive to the present reality of grief and pain, acknowledging how hard it is to feel that way even as they look ahead to a more hopeful future.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

Popular Bible readings for funerals

Bible readings are commonly read at all kinds of funerals, but they play a vital part in any Christian service. At Catholic funerals, it is common to have a reading from both the Old and New Testaments, while Church of England and funerals in other denominations almost always contain at least one scripture that was a favourite of the deceased, or meaningful to those gathered at the funeral.

John 14:1-3

Isaiah 57:1-2

Matthew 23:23

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

John 14:1-3 - Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

The words of Jesus to his disciples not long before his own death have long been a comfort to those mourning the loss of a loved one. The message of comfort after death, and of advanced preparation for this time, remind Christian congregations that death is not the end for their loved one.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Isaiah 57:1-2 - Those Who Walk Uprightly Enter Into Peace

For those struggling with questions and confusion after the loss of a loved one, Isaiah 57 brings a message of consolation. It makes no secret of the fact that death can be hard to understand, but offers hope to those mourning their loved ones.

The righteous perish,
and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death.

Matthew 23:23 - Good and Faithful Servant

Taken from Jesus’ parable of the bags of gold, this verse brings hope and positivity to funeral services by speaking of a promised reward for a faithful life. It can be particularly effective when read alongside memories of your loved one’s life.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Ecclesiastes is a whole book about what it means to live and die well, and this famous passage from chapter 3 is particularly fitting for funerals. It acknowledges that life isn’t always easy, making space for people to grieve without feeling pushed into any emotions they’re not ready for.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance

Religious funeral poems

In addition to Bible passages, Christian poems can be the perfect way to express yourself or bring comfort to the congregation at a loved one’s funeral. The authors of these poems wrote them in the context of their own Christian faith, which gives them a tone and message that will be consistent with any other songs or readings at a religious funeral.

SunLife has also published a complete guide to bereavement poems, with ideas for lots of different types of ceremony and event, that you can refer to if you’re looking for more ideas.

When I Am Dead, My Dearest

In Pastures Green

The Blessing of St Francis of Assisi

When I Am Dead, My Dearest - Christina Rossetti

Written from the perspective of one who has already passed away, Rossetti’s words encourage the listener to go on living their life. While not overtly religious in its language, Rossetti herself was a Christian poet, and the poem’s positive, almost relaxed wording reveals her attitude of Christian peace in the face of death.

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

In Pastures Green - Henry H. Barry

Henry H. Barry’s short poem expresses his comfort in the fact that, though life is not always easy, God is standing by his side. This poem is perfectly suited to Christian funerals, as it acknowledges the pain of those listening, but leaves them with the reassurance of God’s presence.

“In pastures green?” Not always; sometimes He,
Who knoweth best, in kindness leadeth me
In weary ways, where heavy shadows be.

And “by still waters?” No, not always so;
Oft times the heavy tempests round me blow,
And o’er my soul the waves and billows go.

But when the storm beats loudest, and I cry
Aloud for help, the Master standeth by,
And whispers to my soul, “Lo, it is I.”

So, where He leads me, I can safely go,
And in the blest hereafter I shall know
Why in His wisdom He hath led me so.

The Blessing of St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assissi’s famous blessing is a well-known prayer used around the Christian church today. These familiar, comforting words are the perfect way to close a funeral service and leave those attending with a message of peace.

The Lord bless you and keep you.
May He show His face to you and have mercy.
May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace.
The Lord bless you!

Extracts from Christian books & sermons

Religious funeral readings can be taken from books as well as scriptures and poems. With such a wealth of material out there it is impossible to include every passage that you might want to include in a Christian service, but the examples below should give you an idea of the kind of messages you might want to think about.

For the Life of the World

Living Is Death, Dying Is Life

The Last Battle

For the Life of the World – Alexander Schmemann

This quote from a book by Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann is a rousing statement of hope in the face of death. He is refreshingly honest in admitting that he can’t know how everything will turn out in the end, but his joyous focus on death as an act of communion with Life, and the stirring message of hope in the final sentence, make this passage an ideal choice if you want to bring a clear note of encouragement to your funeral service.

“If I make this new life mine, mine this hunger and thirst for the Kingdom, mine this expectation of Christ, mine the certitude that Christ is life, then my very death will be an act of communion with Life. For neither life nor death can separate us from the love of Christ. I do not know when and how the fulfilment will come. I do not know when all things will be consummated in Christ. I know nothing about the ‘whens’ and ‘hows.’ But I know that in Christ this great Passage [...] of the world has begun, that the life of the ‘world to come’ comes to us in the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, for Christ is risen and life reigneth.”

Living Is Death, Dying Is Life – Henry Ward Beecher

Henry Ward Beecher was an American minister in the 19th century, known for his focus on the love of God. The quote below is a great example a Christian emphasis on hope and life after death. It is an encouraging message that life does not end with death, with a joyful undertone that is perfectly in keeping with a Christian funeral.

“Living is death; dying is life. We are not what we appear to be. On this side of the grave we are exiles, on that, citizens; on this side, orphans, on that, children; on this side, captives; on that, freemen; on this side, disguised, unknown; on that, disclosed and proclaimed as the sons of God.”

The Last Battle – C. S. Lewis

Possibly one of the most influential Christian authors of the 20th century, C. S. Lewis’ words are often quoted today. His Chronicles of Narnia series contains many gems like this one, which comes from the final scenes of The Last Battle. He writes of a great story just beginning, and hints at wonders beyond what we can see in this life. It has a comforting, playful tone, and is the perfect choice to bring a sensitive spark of joy to a religious funeral.

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Hymns to play at a funeral

These examples of popular funeral hymns all have beautiful and poignant meanings. They are timeless songs that have been with us in different forms for centuries. Depending on your preferences they can be played on an organ in a traditional arrangement, or played in a variety of contemporary styles.

We’ve included the best known lyrics for these hymns, but the words can also be modernised easily, and we encourage you to look for the version that you feel best suits your loved one’s funeral.

Read our guide to funeral hymns and songs if you’re looking for more ideas.

Amazing Grace

Be Thou My Vision

It Is Well With My Soul

Amazing Grace - John Newton

One of the best known English language hymns in the world, Amazing Grace was written in the late 1700s by Anglican clergyman John Newton. It’s words have a comforting familiarity that can help to put people at ease in a funeral service, and its message of forgiveness and eternal life is a ray of hope in difficult seasons.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I am found
Was blind, but now I see

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
‘Twas grace has brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright, shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I am found
Was blind, but now I see

Be Thou My Vision - Eleanor Hull

Be Thou My Vision is an ancient hymn with roots in Old Irish. The familiar English words printed below come from Eleanor Hull’s 1912 version, and the hymn has more recently been modernised in a popular song by the contemporary Christian group Rend Collective as You Are My Vision. Whichever wording and arrangement you prefer, the song’s emphasis on trust, faithfulness to God and the joy waiting for us in Heaven is a powerful message for any Christian funeral.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul's Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heav’n's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

It Is Well With My Soul - Horatio Spafford

Horatio Spafford’s 1873 hymn was written in the aftermath of the tragic losses of his son and four daughters over the course of just two years. Despite everything, his faith inspired peace as he sailed near the spot where his daughters had died at sea, and he wrote a stirring hymn of comfort, trust and gratitude that still resonates with countless people around the world today.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!

Other Christian funeral songs

Contemporary Christian worship music is becoming increasingly popular in funeral services, with modern songs expressing timeless messages in everyday language. Like hymns, these songs can be played in a number of ways, from one person leading on an organ, keyboard or guitar, to a full band with multiple singers and musicians.

10,000 Reasons

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

God I Look To You

I Can Only Imagine

You Never Let Go

10,000 Reasons - Matt Redman

Matt Redman’s modern worship hymn is one of the most popular Christian songs of the 21st century. Sung around the world, its message of lifelong worship and faithfulness is particularly appropriate for congregations remembering and celebrating a loved one’s life in their funeral.

Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your Holy name

The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

[Chorus]

You’re rich in love
And You’re slow to anger
Your name is great
And Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness
I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons
For my heart to find

[Chorus]

And on that day
When my strength is failing
The end draws near
And my time has come
Still my soul will
Sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years
And then forevermore

Lyrics source

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) - Chris Tomlin

Chris Tomlin’s take on Amazing Grace adapts lyrics from John Newton’s original, but modernises some of the language and adds a new ‘My chains are gone…’ chorus. If you’re looking for a modern twist on a classic hymn, this song is one of the best examples in contemporary Christian music.

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Will be forever mine.
You are forever mine.

Lyrics source

God I Look to You - Bethel Music

One of many popular songs to have come out of California’s Bethel church, God I Look to You is a beautiful expression of trust in God through difficult times. It allows people to be honest and vulnerable as they sing, even as the song builds to an expression of praise and hope.

God I look to You, I won't be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You, You're where my help comes from
Give me wisdom; You know just what to do

I will love You Lord my strength
I will love You Lord my shield
I will love You Lord my rock forever
All my days I will love You God

Hallelujah our God reigns
Hallelujah our God reigns
Hallelujah our God reigns
Forever all my days Hallelujah

Lyrics source

I Can Only Imagine - MercyMe

I Can Only Imagine inspires its singers with a message of hope, inviting the congregation to look up from their present pain and imagine Heaven. The message is particularly poignant at funerals, as the congregation can imagine their loved one in Heaven as they sing, and take comfort in the beautiful images painted by the song’s lyrics.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by Your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When Your face is before me
I can only imagine, yeah

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?

Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun/son
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever—forever worship You

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?

Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?

Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever—forever worship You

I can only imagine

Lyrics source

You Never Let Go - Beth & Matt Redman

You Never Let Go is another song that acknowledges the reality of death and hardship at the same time as it encourages its singers with a message of hope. Its lyrics help people to take comfort even in the midst of fear and pain, and it looks to a future hope that death is not the end.

Even though I walk through the valley
Of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I'm caught in the middle
Of the storms of this life
I won't turn back; I know You are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear? Whom then shall I fear?

O no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
O no, You never let go
In every high and every low
O no, You never let go - Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming
For the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We'll live to know You here on the earth

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear? Whom then shall I fear?

O no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
O no, You never let go
In every high and every low
O no, You never let go - Lord, You never let go of me

Yes, I can see a light that is coming
For the heart that holds on
And there will be an end
To these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You
Still I will praise You

O no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
O no, You never let go
In every high and every low
O no, You never let go - Lord, You never let go of me, yeah

You never let, You never let go
You never let go of me

Lyrics source

Find more information for funerals

For even more funeral planning ideas, visit our Funeral Planning hub, which contains helpful articles on topics such as planning for funeral costs, eulogies, cremation, funeral clothes and much more.

SunLife has also written a helpful guide to non-religious funeral readings, if you’re planning a secular ceremony or looking for something a little different to the passages and songs we’ve included here.