I am about to plagiarize without permission, but I hope to be forgiven by the beauty of the content. In my office here at the church, I have a wonderful copy of Marcus Borg’s “Heart of Christianity,” lent to some prior reverent by Don Halcomb. (You may have noticed a passage from it that became a Call to Worship not so long ago.)
On page 73, as Borg quotes Frederick Buechner, Don—I assume—once wrote an addition, which I will include in italics. Here is Buechner, with Don’s marginal note in its midst:
“Listen to your life. Listen to what happens to you, and what comes to you in your ‘night thoughts,’ because it is through what happens to you that God speaks.”
And so if I may, I would like to launch from here into a foray into nighttime prayers. We Christians who are socially conscious will often remember our mealtime prayers, when the eyes of all are not only “waiting upon Thee” but upon us as we sit:
“The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Psalm 145.
While grace at meals is good, it is always caught on its heels by conversation, the passing of dishes, and the consummation of a feast. It has much to speak for it, but is not (at least for my hungry family) exactly meditative—and yet meditation is something they crave, as my son (having learned what the word “mesmerized” means) can attest.
But, night-time prayers are different. Night-time prayers, like a good watering of the garden after the sun goes down, have time to soak in. They remain for a stretch, make themselves available to rumination, and have the chance of being taken up in dreams.
We have much to busy us, and culturally I would imagine that many try to give even the last seconds of the day to something useful, like an extra page of a book, two clues of a crossword puzzle, or the setting of an alarm. But our love of what is “useful” should never veil the love of what has meaning; and prayer, or the conversation and wisdom we find in it, is fully meaningful.
So if I may advocate: in this season, to which still remain many long nights and quiet rests, give yourself a tradition of night-time prayers, and the “night thoughts” that accompany them. And, if you have any prayers you especially love for any time of day, send them my way so we can share them, and their meaning, as a family.
Be well, pray often, and do it all with love.