A Prayer for Safety in an Unsafe World

I find Anglican prayers helpful when I want to pray and hear wiser words than my own, when I want to silence my own restless mind and listen in on God’s prayers for me.*

This prayer is a Compline service (old english word, related to the word “Complete”) that is prayed before going to bed, at the end of the day. It’s about four-hundred years old, so remember what we know about life four-hundred years ago. Generally a fairly miserable time to be alive, life expectancy is about 35, and Shakespeare is writing plays. There is no electricity or central-heating in England.

Here is what it says:

* O Lord, You will keep us safe
and protect us forever.

I am placing my soul and my body
in Thy safe keeping this night, O God,
in Thy safe keeping, O Jesus Christ,
in Thy safe keeping, O Spirit of perfect truth.
The Three who would defend my cause
be keeping me this night from harm.

* I call on You, O God,
for You will answer me;
give ear to me and hear my prayer.

* Show the wonder of Your great love,
You who save by Your right hand
those who take refuge in You from their foes.

* Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.

Lighten my darkness, Lord.
Let the light of Your presence
dispel the shadows of night.

* Christ with me sleeping,
Christ with me waking,
Christ with me watching,
each day and each night.

* Save us, Lord, while we are awake,
guard us while we are asleep;
that, awake, we may watch with Christ,
and, asleep, may rest in His peace.

God with me protecting,
the Lord with me directing,
the Spirit with me strengthening
for ever and for evermore.

* In the name of the Father precious,
and of the Spirit of healing balm.
In the name of the Lord Jesus,
I lay me down to rest.

The peace of all peace
be mine this night
+ in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Death was crouching at the door of the person who wrote this. We may be living four-hundred years later in Canada with free health care, warm clothes and warm homes and death out of sight and out of mind. But this prayer still feels risky.

What if God _doesn’t_ keep me safe? 

Events like Paris, images of devastation in Syria, Remembrance day, the funeral of a loved one, these experiences interrupt us. They shake us.  But that feeling of precarious insecurity should not drive us away from Christ. What the author of this prayer understood was that the safest place to be – in life or death – is in Christ. Death rattles us but our Saviour knows. He’s been there. What Christ did on the cross wasn’t about giving us safe lives but about giving us himself.  He is the promise, the hope, the salvation, the security, the peace, the way, the truth, the Life. Yes, there is death, but we will walk through it with Christ.

And we can dare pray for safety and security and life everlasting because we are held in Christ.

God has already made us safe.

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – Jesus

 

 

*Wait, wut?

Yes, God prays.

Let me explain a bit about what it means that God prays to God.

Scripture is called the Word of God. It is a message, but it is also – we believe – summarized perfectly and represented in Jesus Christ, the person. Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the message. His birth, life, death, and resurrection, and alive-as-we-speak life is the Word and being alive thus still speaks. The author, the one who speaks, is God the Father.

 

So why would God need to hear from God? Don’t they know what each other is thinking? Aren’t conversations and prayers ultimately about the transference of information and thus prayers (especially prayers between God the Father and God the Son) redundant?

Prayers are not information delivery. I believe they are communication of a different sort. I believe they are a sign of relationship.

Love isn’t silent. Desire and glory and awe are not silent. You don’t see a sunset, or the beauty of a perfectly nutritious and well-plated meal, and not instagram that. You hear a piece of music played unlike anything you’ve ever heard before and you share it. You want your friends to hear the glory. I imagine that the insufficiency of language is what created poetry – we want to put words and prose to reflect emotions and experience that go beyond language, so we decide not to write to the very end of the line. We rhyme, we sing, we invent words, we borrow words from other languages. But we express somehow. Especially to the one we love, especially about the one we love.

So God prays to God. For us. About us. And He hears.

That relationship between and within God (which we parse out as “the Trinity”)  has unity and diversity and love. It’s in part why he created us. We were made in his image. We were made for relationship with Him.

 

 

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