By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night
his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
In his poem “Acquainted with the Night”, Robert Frost writes a spiritual noir about his long association with the darkness and anguish of the night. In Scripture the psalmists also tells of tired hands reaching out to God in the night (Psalm 77:2), and beds soaked with tears (Psalm 6:6).
I too have an acquaintance with the night. I have wrestled my pillow at three in the morning, agitated, grieved and awfulizing about life. When I was a hospital chaplain I saw how the night was often the most terrifying for patients and their families.
Yet the psalmists show how they transformed the night into an oratory of prayer. They fight the darkness by rising in the night to praise God (Psalm 119:62). They substitute worrying on their beds with meditating on God’s Word (Psalm 1:2), His character and promises (Psalm 63:5-7). They count their blessings instead of counting sheep. The psalmists come to find the silence and solitude of the night an integral part of their spiritual lives.
The psalmists have taught me some critical lessons about the night and about prayer. When my wife Melodee was dying from cancer, I, like the psalmists, quieted my soul praying God’s Word. Now, when my head hits the pillow, I like to go over verses I have memorized, then talk to God about them. When I wake in the night I will frequently speak the Apostles Creed against the darkness and pray The Lord’s Prayer. If sleep evades me, I like to go over each phrase of The Lord’s Prayer making it personal to my situation. More frequently now I go over my past day with God, talking to Him about conversations, sights enjoyed, problems encountered and happenings in my family. I think God enjoys me praying to Him like that.
Occasionally I like to rise with the psalmist at night to look at God’s night sky and praise Him for His power and glory. Now I can actually welcome those nights when sleep is difficult and enjoy quiet prayer with God. Through prayer I am becoming better acquainted with my old friend, the Night.
- When visiting Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, a guide showed us the great man’s bedroom. He told us how each night before Jefferson went to bed he primed his mind by reading something “morally uplifting”. During the night Jefferson liked to meditate on what he had read.
Tonight, before you go to bed, set aside extra minutes for reading some Scripture or a devotional. Ready yourself to meditate on it talk with God about it during the night!
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night
also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me.
David, Psalm 16:7-8a