Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Before the Close of Day

"He's having horrible nightmares," Jamie told me, concerned about her 6 year old. "We've taken away all of his dragons and soldiers, all his play guns, and all the movies that might be scary. The doctor thought it might help., but so far it hasn't. Then one night, John's daddy lay face down on the floor and prayed, sobbing like I've never heard him do before. John was wide-eyed, but hasn't had a bad dream since then."

Lorraine, an elderly friend in the nursing home, hadn't been sleeping much lately because of bad dreams. She was sure there was an unforgiven sin she had missed in her prayers. "I'm near worn out over it, but I just can't remember anything that ought to keep me from my bed. I've decided to just take that time and pray for other people and, you know, it's been a great help to me. It's relaxing."

"I'm really tired, just exhausted," a piano student explained to me. "I didn't sleep much last night and then I had an exam this morning at school. I fell asleep worried and tossed and turned all night long. I decided I would ask you to pray with me so I sleep better tonight."

"I'm not sure I've had a good night of sleep since I've been here," laughed Carol, one of the prisoners, after our weekly Bible study at the correctional center. "I sleep best when you've been here and prayed over us. You always pray for our hearts to be so close to God that even our dreams our peaceful."

Late one night when my son couldn't relax and sleep, I began to sing a simple, made up lullaby that has now soothed countless children. "Watch over my soul. It's little, You know. Oh, keep my heart tender toward Thee."

When my childhood friend, Sherry, and I had sleepovers we talked until one of us fell asleep. The other of us would be interrupted by the soft, regular breathing of our sleeping friend.

I pray myself to sleep each night. Others have questioned the wisdom of this, declaring it a disrespect for God, but I don't agree. God is never going to be the first one to go to sleep. As His child, He quiets me with His love, sings over me with joy, and I fall asleep, leaving Him to watch over me.

"Oh, what peace we often forfeit," the old hymn says, "Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." (What a Friend We Have in Jesus, words by Jospeh Scrivener, Music by Charles Converse, 1868)

We all suffer from fears, aches, worries, disease and brokenness. Sleepless nights and bad dreams can attack anyone. Prayer can be our familiar resting place. Prayer keeps our hearts tenderly tuned in to the Father's song, His quieting love.

To Thee before the close of day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That, with Thy wonted favor,Thou
Wouldst be our Guard and Keeper now.

From all ill dreams defend our sight,
From fears and terrors of the night;
Withhold from us our ghostly foe,
That spot of sin we may not know.

O Father, that we ask be done,
Through Jesus Christ, Thine only Son,
Who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee,
Doth live and reign eternally.

(Unknown Author, 7th Century; 
translated from Latin, John M. Neale, 1852;
Music by William B. Bradbury, 1843)

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