Some years ago I was addressing a group of young adults at a “Theology on Tap” gathering. I was asked by an attendee of some ways to avoid temptation. Among the things I offered was to meditate frequently on death, especially at night before going to bed. The bar got very quiet and everyone looked at me as though I had just been speaking Swahili. “What did he just say?…Could you repeat that?” Perhaps my remarks were the right answer but the wrong answer at the same time. In these modern, medically advanced times, those in their 20s don’t really relate to death as a concept or near reality. Meditating on death seems strange and foreign to most of them.
But the instinct of the Church has always been to link night prayer to death, by way of a kind of “dress rehearsal.” Consider these prayers:
1. Into your hands O Lord I commend my sprit. This is a reference to Jesus’ dying words, “Father! Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46).
2. Lord, now you let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of your people. These are the words of Simeon, who had been promised he would not see death until he had beheld the Messiah. Now that he has held the infant Jesus in his arms he can die peacefully.
3. May the Lord grant us a peaceful night and a peaceful death. This is the concluding line of night prayer just before the Salve Regina, where we ask the Blessed Mother to “tuck us in” for the night.
There are also many beautiful references in the hymns of night prayer. For example,
Guard us waking guard us sleeping;
and when we die, May we in thy mighty keeping all peaceful lie. When the last dread call shall wake us, Do not Our God forsake us But to reign in glory take us With thee on high.
(From the Hymn “Day is Done” – 2nd Verse)
Teach me to live that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed; Teach me to die, so that I may Rise glorious at the awful Day.
(From the Hymn “Glory to Thee, my God this night.”- 3rd verse)
These are just some of the references. But night prayer is a time to remember that we will die and to ponder this with sobriety. Sleep is, to some degree, like death; we become “dead” to the world. We are no longer aware of the rhythms, demands, and fascinations of this world. We are “out” to this world, out of touch with it. We lie still as in death, unaware and disinterested, at a kind of comatose distance from the things that obsess us in our waking hours. And though we awake from sleep, one day we will sleep to this world and never awake, never return to its demands. Our coffin, like a little bed, will claim us. It will be closed and this world will know us no more.
Night prayer serves as a gentle reminder of this looming summons. We entrust ourselves to the care of our Lord, who alone can lead us over the valley of the shadow of death. We ask, too, Our Lady’s prayers. We ask that she, as a good mother, console us and assure us that after this our exile we will see the glorious face of her Son and be restored to our Father in the warm love of the Holy Spirit.
Even if you don’t have time to pray the other hours of the Divine Office, I strongly recommend night prayer (Compline). It is brief and beautiful, sober and serene. It is the great dress rehearsal for our death. If we are faithful, this will be the greatest day of our life on this earth. On that day, we will be called to Him who loves us. Surely our judgment looms, but even that, if we are faithful, will usher in our final purification and freedom from the shackles of sin and the woes of this world.
May the Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.
God, who made the earth and heaven,
Darkness and light:You the day for work have given,For rest the night.May your angel guards defend us,Slumber sweet your mercy send us,Holy dreams and hopes attend usAll through the night.
And when morn again shall call us
To run life’s way,May we still, whatever befall us,Your will obey.From the power of evil hide us,In the narrow pathway guide us,Never be your smile denied usAll through the day.
Guard us waking, guard us sleeping,
And when we die,May we in your mighty keepingAll peaceful lie.When the last dread call shall wake us,Then, O Lord, do not forsake us,But to reign in glory take usWith you on high.
Holy Father, throned in heaven,
All holy Son,Holy Spirit, freely given, Blest Three in One:Grant us grace, we now implore you,Till we lay our crowns before youAnd in worthier strains adore youWhile ages run.
By Kim Butts
If your family is like most, you have at least from time to time fallen prey to the frantic pace of busy lifestyles and the demands of work, home and even church activities. We live in unsettled times. Our children are bombarded from all sides with the realities of war, terrorism, school violence, immorality and confusion. Have you wondered if it is possible for your family to settle into a peaceful, joy-filled existence that honors the Lord and serves Him instead of submitting to the pressures of the world? The Father has a prayer plan to help you do just that! In His lovingkindness, He has enabled us to be victorious in the battle with the world. He has given us His powerful Word to ward off the temptations and torment of all that is not of Him: “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…” (Eph. 6:17-18). This is God’s exhortation that the battle is a spiritual one and can only be fought in His strength, depending upon His Word and prayer.
Below you will find scriptural prayers for a peaceful household. Some words of caution are necessary, however, before you determine that your home will never see strife again as the Lord hears and begins to answer. Remember that you will face trials, and there will still be times of struggle. God is completely in control, and because He is shaping and molding us increasingly into the image of His Son, there will be times when peace seems far from your household. The key is how you face those trials and deal with your struggles as a family united in Christ Jesus. The worldly ones are watching to see if you will crumble, but what a victory for the Lord when you stand firm and walk through difficulty and discord with the calm assurance of a faith-filled life.
Maintaining peace in the midst of turmoil is possible as our faith level rises to meet the powerful possibilities of God, even when we cannot see into our future: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Believing that God is able to reach into our circumstances and give victory as we call upon Him in prayer increases our ability to live peaceful, quiet lives in all godliness and holiness in the midst of troubling times.
Reflect on the following passage of Scripture: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (Jas. 1:2-8). We will not always know how we should pray, and at those times, it is always the best course to ask God for His wisdom and counsel in the situation. If you try to handle the tough times on your own, your strength will not be sufficient for you and your family to maintain peace. Teach your children that whenever they face difficulties or stress, they must go immediately to prayer, asking the Father for His wisdom in the situation. Trying to figure it out on their own will only add to their anxiety and bring tension into your family.
Remember always that you can have complete confidence in coming before the throne of the Lord Almighty: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). It is only possible to have full assurance in asking when you go to His Word, because that is where His perfect will is contained. If you can’t find what you want to ask God in the pages of His Word, you need to consider that perhaps you are not asking according to His will.
“And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (John 14:13). We should always ask in Jesus’ name. His Name is powerful. We also need to check our motives, and the way we are asking. Always think about whether or not the answer to your request will bring honor to God, and that your request is not just a selfish appeal. Perhaps the Lord will answer in a way you do not expect, because whenever the Father answers a prayer, it is so that He will receive the glory rather than man. It is important that when you ask God to bring peace into your household you do not doubt that He will answer your request. The Lord considers doubting as being double-minded.
Don’t let all of this instruction discourage you from prayer. It should, in fact, energize you and excite you about praying for peace in your household! For example: Jesus, in Your Name, we ask for the peace that transcends all understanding to fall upon our household, guarding our hearts and minds, so that You will receive glory when we do not fall in the midst of stressful times. We thank You for hearing and answering our prayer as we stand believing upon the promises of Your holy Word. (See Phil. 4:7).
Here are your battle plans for peace in your household:
- Have faith, believing and not doubting that God is able to defeat Satan and bring peace into your home (Jas. 1:6-8).
- Determine to stand firm even in the midst of trials – persevere (Jas. 1:2-4).
- Put on and use the armor that God has given you, especially the sword, which is His holy Word (Eph. 6:10-18).
- Ask God for wisdom whenever you lack it (Jas. 1:5).
- Be faithful to obey all that He asks of you as you live by His holy Word.
- Have confidence to ask according to His will, knowing that you will have what you have asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15). If you pray His Word, you will always be praying in His will!
- Ask in the name of Jesus so that the Son may bring glory to the Father (John 14:13).
- Receive with thankfulness all that the Lord has for your family.
Pray the Blessings and the Promises of Peace Over Your Family Blessings
Mark 10:16 says, “And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.” Parents, if this is the example of Jesus, we should all be gathering our children to us and praying blessings into their lives daily! Here are some blessings of peace to pray over your family:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).
May your ways be pleasing to the Lord, so that even your enemies will live at peace with you (Prov. 16:7).
May you lie down and sleep in peace, for the Lord alone makes you dwell in safety (Psa. 4:8).
May the God of Peace crush the enemy under your feet and the grace of Jesus be with you (Rom. 16:20).
May you stand firm with the belt of God’s truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of the Lord’s righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace – God’s holy Word (Eph. 6:14-15).
“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).
“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20-21).
“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Pet. 1:2).
Prayers of Promise
Lord, we receive into our household the strength You give to Your people. Thank You for blessing us with Your peace (Psa. 29:11).
Father, help this family to turn from evil and do good. Enable us to seek peace and to pursue it always (Psa. 34:14).
Holy One, we love Your Word and claim Your promise that we will have great peace, and that nothing can make us stumble (Psa. 119:165).
King of Kings, thank You that You have left Your peace in our hearts, and that this is not the world’s idea of peace. Because of You, our hearts will not be troubled, and we will not be afraid (John 14:27).
Lord Almighty, we know that in this world there will be trouble, but we give You thanks that we can take heart in knowing that You have overcome the world so that we may have peace in the midst of it (John 16:33).
Holy Spirit, we submit our minds to Your control, so that You will give life and peace (Rom. 8:6).
Lord of Lords, give us strength to make every effort to do the things that lead to peace and to the building up of our family (Rom. 14:19).
God of Hope, fill us with joy and peace as we trust in You, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).
Father, help us, as a family, to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).
Lord, please give us strength not to be anxious about anything. Help us to remember in every circumstance to pray with thanksgiving so that Your peace, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Help us to keep our focus only upon whatever is lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. As a family, we want to do only the things we learn, receive and hear from You so that Your peace will be with us (Phil. 4:6-9).
Gracious God, give us the ability to allow only the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, because we know that as members of Your body we are called to peace. Help us to be a thankful family (Col. 3:15).
Father, give us a deep desire to make requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. We know that this is good and pleases You, Lord Jesus, because You want all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
Lord, purify my children’s hearts as they call upon You. Give them courage to flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace (2 Tim. 2:22).
Righteous Father, thank You for the promise that the discipline we must impose upon our children will produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for them if they will receive the training. So we also ask that our children will, with willing hearts, receive discipline without taking offense, recognizing the opportunity to learn and grow from it (Heb. 12:11).
Father, Your Word says that peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness and that discord cannot produce conduct that pleases You. Help us to be a peacemaking family (Jas. 3:18).
Lord, Your Word promises that we can look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. Since we are looking forward to this, help us to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with You (2 Pet. 3:13-14).
Kim Butts is the author of The Praying Family