Great Men Praying in the Night
At some point – every day – we do it – we go to sleep. Generally, we are weary. We might have hearts of gratitude for that day’s bright moments or anticipation for the morrow’s promise; our minds might be heavy with that day’s not-done’s or the next days need-to-do’s.
But – at day’s end, we need rest. We need hope.
Across the years, comes this wise reminder from two prayer giants – to pray as we fall asleep – that our last conscious thoughts of the day be prayerful ones. When a great man like Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes a great man like Martin Luther, we probably should listen.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes Martin Luther and I quote them both:
“Most remarkable and profound is the ancient church’s prayer that when our eyes are closed in sleep God may nevertheless keep our hearts awake. It is through prayer that God may dwell with us and in us even though we are unconscious of His presence, that He may keep our hearts pure and holy in spite of all the cares and temptations of the night, to make our hearts ever alert to hear His call and, like the boy Samuel, answer Him even in the night: ‘Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth ‘ (1 Samuel 3:9). Even in sleep we are in the hands of God or in the power of evil. Even in sleep God can perform His wonders upon us or evil bring us to destruction. So we pray at evening:
‘When our eyes with sleep are girt,
Be our hearts to Thee alert;
Shield us, Lord, with thy right arm,
Save us from sin’s dreadful harm. (Luther)’
But over the night and over the day stands the word of the Psalter: ‘The day is thine, the night is also.’ (Psalm 74:16)”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together. New York: HarperCollins,1954, p. 75)
It’s not a sweet habit but an essential prayer ritual: the day’s very last thoughts. We need to rest from today and to trust for tomorrow.