Prayer and hell Q. If someone is in hell, are our prayers wasted on him or her? Our prayers cannot get someone out of hell, but they can lighten the punishment of God in hell?!  

N.W., Salmon, Idaho

A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:

Actually, prayers for those in hell are a total waste of time. The damned do not want your prayers or your attempts at communion with them. That is the nature of hell. And prayers do not lighten the punishment of hell because God does not send the punishment. God does not send people to hell. They have so locked themselves into a hellish way of life that they would not want to be anywhere else.

Keep this thought in mind, however: If you now pray for anyone in this life they will never go to hell. What a great thought! If anyone is lovable enough to merit the prayers of others, then they are redeemable. So the best way to keep people out of hell is to be in prayerful communion with them — now.