Cape Town's Archbishop on Tuesday led Nelson Mandela's closest family in a sombre prayer, offering support for his wife and a "peaceful, perfect, end" for a man considered by many to be a living saint.
Bishop Thabo Makgoba visited the Pretoria Mediclinic Heart Hospital where the anti-apartheid leader is critically ill, consoling wife Graca Machel "at this hard time of watching and waiting."
After a 18-day vigil, in which the family has watched Mandela slip from a stable to critical condition, Makgoba urged them to be strong.
"Take away their fears so that they may dare to face their grief," his prayer read.
"Guide the medical staff so that they may know how to use their skills wisely and well, in caring for Madiba and keeping him comfortable," Makgoba said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.
Mandela's condition has worsened despite more than two weeks of intensive treatment.
Many now fear the worst for a man who, in defeating apartheid, bent the arc of history toward his will and lit a fire that shone for millions across the world.
The prayer seemed to echo a feeling of inevitability about Mandela's condition that is shared by millions of his compatriots, to whom he remains a moral giant, even though he stepped back from public life a decade ago.
"May (we) be filled with gratitude for all the good that he has done for us and for our nation, and may (we) honour his legacy through our lives."
"Grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering."
"Grant him, we pray, a quiet night and a peaceful, perfect, end."