Night Prayers

It’s the middle of the night and I am not sleeping. This doesn’t happen often, but tonight between intense days of offering hospitality, anticipation of family travels and the cusp of a new year of life, sleep is elusive for now. And so I turn to what I have come to believe is my primary vocation in this part of my life, a vocation of prayer. Unlike my intentional and regular practices of prayer at the sunrise in the east overlooking my garden, my night prayers seem random, amorphous, and scattered. Yet it is in these hours that my prayers are also less heady, less covered and more vulnerable. I am trying to learn to let the thoughts that rise in these sleeplessness be the subject of my prayers: “That conversation that didn’t go so well today- Holy One, help me to see how I can do my part in allowing it to be a step toward peace, and heal the parts of me that feel raw and broken. And then that friend who is so bereft after her separation, come, O Spirit, and comfort her and give her your peace. My little grand people, each one  facing the delights and scary parts of starting a school year in a new place with new people and a new teacher…” (I pause here to hold each one up to the light, one in Middle School, one in First Grade, one in Kindergarten, one in pre-school.) “Loving God, help them to be confident that they are loved, that they have the capacity to learn; protect and sustain them. Oh, and this world in  pain…. God have mercy.”

And so the prayers in the night continue. I was taught to pray in a very organized fashion in preparation for bed. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I ask the Lord my soul to keep,” followed by a long list of family and friends, each by name. Maybe it was in those formative years that I was imprinted with the sense that God, whom I now experience more as Mystery beyond any one name, was there at night, both as I tried to go to sleep, and as I slept, and when I woke with a night terror or just found myself, as I do tonight, wakeful. I did not then, nor do I now, intend these prayers to be the laundry list of what I insist God must do, nor does it feel like a divine ATM where I go to put in my requests for what I need. Rather it is meant, I believe, to be a review of the flotsam and jetsam of my awareness that I am reviewing with the Beloved, the God who loves me just the way I am. This Holy One, whose heart surrounds all of creation, holds us all in love and care, often in ways fro which we do not have words.

So I come to bottom line of the weary tossing and turning, fretting and whining, wishing and hoping, and say , “Loving God, here I am. You know my tiredness, my body and soul aches. You know my broken heart for the people and places of the world who suffer, for the great need for peace and wholeness for all. And you also know that my heart is full of gratitude for each point of light that shone to day and will shine tomorrow. Loving God, here I am. Grant me rest.”

Night prayers, a place where I encounter grace. And eventually peace.

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  • Deborah Arca Mooney

    I so appeciate this invitation to lean into the sleeplessness instead of fight it. I had a roommate who said that 4 am was the only time God could talk to her, given her busy, hectic life, so she usually tried to listen! This just reminds me to accept what is, instead of fight it. Night prayers indeed.

  • Scott Clark

    “Lean into the sleeplessness” and God “there at night.” I’m learning the sounds and silences of our new (to us) house. Last week, I sat for a while with the quiet of a bright, full moon. Elizabeth and Deborah, this is a gift of grace for those 3 am “listenings.” Thank you.

  • sheila denton

    The wee early morning feels more and more like sacred space as I am learning to trust that its nourishment can be much richer than the hour of sleep that is “lost” to it.

    Amorphous is the word that is shimmering…..

  • Penny Green

    It was almost fifteen years ago that I first recognized sleeplessness as an invitation to spend time with God. For me it is first and foremost a time of simply being with God. When thoughts and prayers and ideas surface I gently give them whatever attention they want. My middle of the night times with God have brought forth countless epiphanies, large and small. One night I might be awake for two hours, another for two minutes … but it always ends with drifting back to sleep in the embrace of God. It is one of my favorite parts of my day and I actually feel a sense of disappointment when I wake up on a particular morning and realize I have slept through the night.

  • Stephen Owen

    This is beautiful.

  • Elizabeth Nordquist

    wish I could help you…I am not really techno-adept. Maybe one of the Patheos folk can help you out.