Ancient Prayers are True to Life
And grant rest, O Master, to our souls and bodies as we sleep; preserve us from the gloomy slumber of sin and from the dark passions of the night. Calm the impulses of carnal desires, quench the fiery darts of the evil one which are craftily directed against us. Still the rebellions of the flesh, and put far from us all anxiety and worldly cares. Grant us, O God, a watchful mind, pure thoughts, a sober heart and a quiet rest free from every vision of the devil. Raise us up again at the hour of prayer, strengthened in Your precepts and holding within us steadfastly the thought of Your commandments. Grant that we may sing praises to You through the night and that we may hymn, bless and glorify Your all-honorable and majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Many times, all of us either repeat ancient prayers without thinking of what they are saying, or we go to the other extreme and just sigh whenever we see an ancient prayer and do not say it. Few of us ever stop and really read them to see what they are saying to us. But, look at the prayer above. It is a quite realistic prayer, and one that takes into account what happens when we sleep. So, take a moment and read the prayer above again. It is part of daily Compline, so it is a prayer that is prayed daily across the Orthodox world.
Notice that the prayer acknowledges the reality of night slumbers. All of us have had nightmares. All of us have had dreams that leave us gasping when we wake up. They may leave us gasping in fear. But, they may also leave us gasping in guilt. How could we ever imagine the things that we dreamed? What type of people are we that we have dreamed those dreams? Obviously not all dreams are negative dreams. But, all of us know that negative dreams are part of the current human reality. The prayer above covers any of several type of dreams that we might have. What impressed me was the honesty about what types of dreams people have at night.
But, more than that, all of us have had the experience of going to sleep while we are stressed and worried about some event in our life. That often leads to some very odd dreams. “Put far from us all anxiety and worldly cares,” says the prayer. “Grant us . . . a quiet rest,” we pray. Let our rest be truly rest. I find it interesting that the prayer assumes that we are going to dream. Modern understanding says that all of us dream every night. We may not remember that we have dreamed, but we have indeed dreamed. And that is what the prayer assumes. And so the prayer goes on to ask that our dreams may be restful dreams, dreams of singing praises to God throughout the night, dreams that exalt us and raise us up to the throne of God.
Dreaming has been found to be a necessary part of our achieving rest. This prayer assumes that we will dream and simply asks that our dreams be dreams that glorify God. It asks that as we dream, we dream in such a way that we awake rested and ready to undertake the tasks of the next day. More than that, it asks God to keep Satan from interfering in our dreams and asks that God intervene so that even our “natural” dreams not veer into areas that will cause us to wake up tired and not ready to face the next day.
So, are you ready to pray that prayer now? “Grant rest, O Master, to our souls and bodies as we sleep . . .” Let this be our prayer this, and every, night.
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