Holy Saturday is the quietest of all holy days. It marks a critical turning point in Jesus’ journey that began on Palm Sunday and continued through the Last Supper, his brutal crucifixion, and into glorious resurrection.
Holy Saturday is part of the Christian celebration of Holy Week that commemorates an eight-day miracle of redemption. It’s what we now call the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday marks a critical turning point in Jesus’ journey that began on Palm Sunday and continued through the Last Supper, his brutal crucifixion, and into glorious resurrection.
It is the quietest of all eight days. On Holy Saturday, desperate hopes of Jesus’ followers lay silent in the tomb. There is no triumphant ride on a gentle donkey, no palms waving, no breaking of bread, no unfathomable violence.
It is a world with its breath held...in anticipation that God will deliver. Longing to see if their Savior, sealed behind a stone, will rise. In our modern world, Holy Saturday is a day to evaluate and appreciate our faith.
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What Does the Bible Reveal about Holy Saturday?
The events that transpire after Jesus’ gut-wrenching crucifixion and before the glory of Sunday, are recorded in all four Gospels. All four accounts show Joseph and Mary making provisions for Jesus’ body, gathering spices and oils, but unable to anoint him as desired.
As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law. (Luke 23:55)
Photo Credit: Getty Image/iStock/Maria Marganingsih
It's interesting to note that in Matthew 27 we get a glimpse of how even the Pharisees may have had “suspicion” that Jesus might actually rise from the dead. They claim to secure the tomb with a guard and a stone so that Jesus’ friends won’t steal the body. But I wonder if this passage reveals their trepidation that Jesus might be the real thing:
"Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." (Matthew 27:63-65)
Why Do Christians Pray on Holy Saturday?
We know that after crying out “It is finished” (John 19:30) on Good Friday, our Savior is fully alive on Sunday. He invites his disciples to “touch me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).
And because of this miracle, we have the opportunity to praise him in prayer. We can thank him in prayer for the light he brings to our darkest doubts. We can pray for him to help our unbelief.
Or, we can pray by imagining Mary, John, and others in the midst of their trauma, hoping God would fulfill what Jesus taught. This can encourage us that even in times of apparent failure, God is working in higher ways.
Praying on Holy Saturday is an opportunity to deepen your connection with all the waiting souls that Jesus died to save.
5 Prayers for Holy Saturday
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1. A Prayer in the Waiting
I’m reminded this Holy Saturday that you are no stranger to death, darkness, or doubt. Help me to remember as I wade within my own discomforts and fears today, that you are still alive, even when I can’t see you. You know waiting is hard. And yet you allow it, for your glory to be revealed in your perfect timing. I rest in you, Lord, as I wait on what only you can do.
2. A Prayer of Gratitude for Resurrection
your miracles are so inconceivable, it’s tempting to not believe. How awesome you are to prove yourself able to defeat even death, so we can look forward to each new day. Help me to invite this Saturday as a holy day that you have made. I’m in awe that what appeared dead to human senses, by your power and grace, rose to life.
Guide me to trust in the proof you’ve given, even during the confusing, inevitable “tomb” seasons of life this side of heaven. Praise you for making resurrection so perfect and plain! In your name,
3. A Prayer to Find Refuge in Hope
on the Sabbath, Jesus rested.
He was in the grave. He had finished his work.
To most people’s eyes, it looked as if it were all over.
He was dead and buried.
But only as a seed dies when it is planted in the earth,
not to decay, but to spring to new life.
Teach us to take refuge in you when we are afraid
Teach us that death is not our end
Teach us to hope always in you and in the resurrection,
the making of all things New.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen. – Rachel Marie Stone
4. A Prayer of Praise
Our life had no hope of Eternal Happiness before You redeemed us.
Your Resurrection has washed away our sins, restored our innocence and brought us joy.
How inestimable is the tenderness of Your Love!
– excerpted from Saint Gregory the Great's Easter Prayer
5. A Prayer to Awaken Dormant Faith
... may this Easter grandeur that Spring lavishly imparts
Awaken faded flowers of faith lying dormant in our hearts,
And give us ears to hear, dear God, the Springtime song of birds
With messages more meaningful than man’s often empty words
Telling harried human beings who are lost in dark despair –
‘Be like us and do not worry for God has you in His care.
– excerpted from Helen Steiner Rice
Selected Scripture Readings for Holy Saturday
To experience the significance of the Holy Saturday between death and eternal life, you may find these Scripture selections stirring:
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
...while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
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Worship Songs to Sing on Holy Saturday
The lyrics to “In Christ Alone” (Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend) read like a heartfelt prayer—reflecting that Jesus is the cornerstone...that no stone could hold him in the tomb. He is the “solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.” Even through the darkness of waiting for a miracle. Recounting the Holy Saturday of silence that precedes rejoicing, the song says:
...there in the ground his body lay
light of the world by darkness slain
then bursting forth in Glorious day
up from the grave he rose again!
“watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.”
And indeed, we are part of their story. As this song says to you, “this is my story, this is my song.” From that first Holy Saturday, to today, and forever.
Finally, this beloved Easter hymn celebrates Jesus’ victory over death and the “dark domain” with these lyrics:
Low in the grave He lay...waiting for the day
Vainly they watch His bed...vainly they seal the dead
Death cannot keep its prey...he tore the bars away.
May you rest in the truth that you were washed in the blood of Friday, that was still holding you in the silence of Saturday. Knowing this makes every new day a celebration of resurrection Sunday.
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Lia Martin loves to inspire others to lean into the Lord daily. She's a writer, editor, marketer, former Crosswalk.com Faith Editor, and author of Wisdom at Wit's End: Abandoning Supermom Myths in Search of Supernatural Peace. When she's not cultivating words, she loves walking in nature, reading, exploring the latest health trends, and laughing with her two wonderful kids. She blogs at liamartinwriting.com.
This article is part of our larger Prayer resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.
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