I have said a prayer over a deceased pet on occasion. Children and adults have animals they care about. The majority of prayer requests in a grade school youth group were about pets and grandparents. I interpret Philippians 4:6 as permission to pray about anything people care about.
However, for me the death of a farm animal or a wild animal has never occasioned prayer. There were hunters and 4-H members in my congregations, so not much romanticism about wild animals and farm animals.
George Weigel is amused by new Episcopal liturgical prayers apparently for funerals of such animals. The one for a wild animal goes:
“Almighty God, who make the beasts of the wild move in beauty and show forth the glory of your Name: We grieve the death of this creature, in whose living and dying the power of your Spirit was made manifest. We reverence the loss of that which was never ours to claim but only to behold with wonder; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Psalm 104 shows appreciation for the animal kingdom, but no sentimentality or romanticism. God gives food to predators as well as the peaceful herbivores (vs. 20-21). Yet I like the line in the above prayer that says that God’s spirit is made manifest in the living and dying of wild animals. Psalm 104 says that too.
Weigel cares that we avoid confusing animals with humans. Certainly the Hebrew Scriptures avoid this. Animals serve humans as food, and in agriculture and war. They serve as acceptable sacrifices, while human sacrifice stands condemned.
Still, Psalm 104 expresses a positive way of thinking about animals that is in line with other writings in the Hebrew Bible. God’s saves the animal species in the Flood saga. At the end of Jonah, God expresses pity for the livestock as well as the people in Nineveh. So the Hebrew attitude puts God as Lord and caretaker of the animal world as well as the human world. Without any urban over-romanticizing, the Bible values animals. Thus, we can say cruelty to animals or neglect is a serious sin.
But most of all the animal world inspires awe and gratitude to God. It is not just that animals are useful. It is also that they contribute to the beauty of creation. “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all: The earth is full of your creatures” (Psalms 104:24).