Peaceful sleep…

Angel Guardian, keep and preserve all of us from every evil, sickness, and grief.

Help us, O Lord, to be good, obedient, and kind.

I thank thee, O Lord, for all good things thou has sent to me during this past day.

Let me spend this night in peace, and protect me from all harm. Amen.

[A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p. 16]

Let me spend this night in peace…

During one stay with my parents after my older son was born, my father sent me off to bed around ten o’clock with a promise that he’d put Colin in the crib when he was ready to sleep. He also told me not to worry if Colin woke early – he’d be up early anyway, and he’d be glad to keep Colin company while I got some extra sleep. Ten minutes later, I was asleep; nine hours later, I awoke to hear Colin and my father downstairs, laughing. A few years after that, he kept my younger son company, soothing Jared through an uncomfortable night of teething while I slept without interruption.

I spent those nights in peace because I knew my father and trusted in his love and care for me and my young sons. I didn’t wake up because I knew he was more than capable of meeting their needs. If an emergency arose, my father would do whatever was necessary, and would wake me if I needed to be up.

My children are twenty-one and eighteen now, and my father died almost four years ago. But each night, I still hand Colin and Jared over, just as I have since their first  nights in this world. I hand them over to God, trusting that God’s love for them will not fail. I do the same with everyone else’s lives, including my own. If I could not give everyone over to God, would I ever get a peaceful night’s sleep?

This past day

At the end of the day, am I grateful for the hours I was given? Am I aware, on the superficial as well as on the deepest level, of the miracle I’ve been immersed in? The miracle I easily mistake for an infinite if commonplace resource: daily life.

Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of its outline or a hint of its face. The way the trees move in the wind, the way my cats interrupt their backyard explorations to rest under my hand, the aeronautic wonder of a sparrow flying from maple to forsythia, the appearance of my still sleepy son packing his duffel before heading to work.

Food on the table, breathable air, loving and being loved. Today may not be perfect, and I may forget some of its gifts. Still…

I thank thee, O Lord, for all good things thou hast sent to me during the past day. 

[nighttime prayer, A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p. 16. This is part of an ongoing series. For the full prayer, click Prayer At Night above.]

Help Us, O Lord

Help us, O Lord, to be good, obedient, and kind.

Good, obedient, and kind. Taken separately, they don’t have near the power as they do together.

Good    Help me spend my days wisely, offering my talents, knowledge, and energy only to those things that increase the love in this world. Everything I am can devastate or foster. Help me choose the latter.

Obedient      I am too limited to see very far down the path of love and peace. I am tempted to serve lesser powers: greed, vanity, and fear.  Help me choose to serve you, when your reasons seem clear and when they do not.

Kind      All the good intentions will lead me astray if I am willing to harm others in their name. Help me choose kindness over judgement, for you have been so kind to me.

On this day, help me to remember that without kindness I can mistake personal piety for goodness and unwillingness to accept the consequences of my actions for obedience. God help me.

[For the full prayer, click prayer at night above]

From every evil, sickness, and grief

Keep and preserve all of us from every evil, sickness, and grief.

Sickness and grief come to all of us before we put many candles on our birthday cakes. The healthiest will catch colds, stomach bugs, or sprain ankles. Grief is inevitable for anyone who loves; it’s the natural response to loss. Perhaps that’s why they are included in this child’s prayer – an acknowledgement of the difficulties that come into every life.

What about evil? Is it an inevitable part of being human, just like sickness and grief? Judging by the lynchings, genocides, mass shootings, and the prevalence of physical abuse, the answer is yes. Evil can touch our lives at any point. Very young children may not understand evil, but I believe they are more than capable of recognizing and being damaged by it.

My first read on keep and preserve all of us from every evil is a prayer for protection from something external to me. My second read: keep and preserve all of us from becoming evil, from visiting evil upon others. The first reading is a child’s one, the second for those of us a few years past nursery school. I’m old enough to recognize my own capacity for evil, and to pray there will never come a time when that capacity is put to use.

Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil…

Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil…

Please, God, guard my soul from evil without and from evil within.

[For more in this series, click  prayer at night above]


Keep and Preserve All of Us

Angel Guardian, keep and preserve all of us from very evil, sickness, and grief. 

[A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, New Jersey: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p. 16. For more on this series, click Prayer at Night above.]

Preserve us, not just me. Because I am never alone, and I am always connected to everyone else. I am unique and connected: every other person who lives and breathes is also unique and connected.

Since God isn’t limited by my understanding and experience, the us I pray for doesn’t have to be limited by my imagination or awareness. Every living thing, known or unknown, is included.

If that’s not a life-changing truth, I don’t know what is.