Something I am working on in my spiritual life, for actually a few years now, are night prayers. The idea being simple; that before you go to bed, you give your life once again to the care of the Lord. I am sure that, simply speaking, we can say that before modern civilization, we may not have been sure that we would awake the next morning, and all the more fervent would our night prayers be. For me, I have been blessed to have comfort as I lay my head down, little anxiety about the fact that the Lord was watching over me and mine as we sleep. You might think I am so full of faith and assured of my Lord’s protection, and though I am, I could fall asleep most anywhere at anytime and it is maybe more fatigue or laziness. Therefore, I know that I need to put more time and heart into my night prayers.
I have heard that many priests close their day by reciting Psalm 51 before going to bed, a Psalm seeking mercy and forgiveness for the faults we carry from the day. I know if I ever can get myself organized (I use the Laudete app on my phone, under the tab “Liturgy of the Hours”) I will try to read the prayers for “Compline” (9 p.m. prayers) before falling asleep and they always have a beautiful take on entrusting our night to God; for example,
“Christ, thou who art the light and day,
Who chasest nightly shades away,
Thyself the Light of Light confessed,
And promiser of radiance blest:
O holy Lord, we pray to thee,
Throughout the night our guardian be,
in thee vouchsafe us to repose,
All peaceful till the night shall close.
Our hearts to thee forever take,
Our hearts to thee forever wake,
And let thy right hand from above,
Shield us who turn to thee in love
O strong Defender hear our prayers,
Repel our foes and break their snares,
Those ransomed with thy life-blood dear.
Almighty Father, this accord
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord,
Who with the Holy Spirit and thee
Doth reign through all eternity.
Now THAT says it all before a good night’s sleep. The best thing to do though, if you cannot get to Compline in the Liturgy of the Hours, before you go to sleep, on your knees, you can start by giving praise and thanks for your day and all of the unexpected wonders it brought (there are always gifts along the way). Then, do a little “examen” or examination of conscience for the day (again, I use Laudete and go to the “Confession” tab where you can find several versions of this list of ways you may have gone awry or improved in your spiritual life). Then before signing off, say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. (This prayer is based in scripture from the first part of the gospel of Luke.)
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
These are guidelines for a structured night prayer, but of course anything from the heart is great, and I admit that as I go from room to room to say good-night and pray with my children, we change it up. For each child, I kind of let them lead their own version of night prayers. My younger son and I like to say the prayer for souls in purgatory:
The Prayer of St Gertrude (she was promised by Our Lord that everytime it is said, 1000 souls in Purgatory would be released)…
Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious blood of your Divine Son Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, sinners everywhere, sinners in the universal church, those within our own home and within our own family. Amen
I admit that those last two lines really help me examine my own conscience automatically while I am praying with my son. It’s also really comforting to think that we helped 2000 souls by saying it together each day.
Then we pray a Hail Mary, and special intentions which usually include names of family near and far, and anyone that we know is struggling and needs extra prayer. He always remembers the special cases I tell him about during the day or from earlier in the week.
With my daughter, we say a Hail Mary, and then she lists all of the people, groups and intentions on her heart. She is always sure to mention the Pope and military families, as well as occasionally seminarians and unborn babies. She never forgets her brothers and Dad.
For myself, I always seem to be asking the Lord to increase my faith, trust and that I hope to be better at pleasing Him every day. I know that this is always on my heart, but my humanness fights me every step of the way. (Still reading “Resisting Happiness” by Matthew Kelly, almost done…loving it…review to follow soon.)
So now I lay me down to sleep…(there’s another no-fail prayer) but I pray that whatever you lay your head down to at night, you take a moment to get on your knees before you pull the covers up. I told myself many years ago that out of gratitude for God’s goodness and call upon my life, that I would at least genuflect/kneel once through the day or before bed every night, so He knows no matter how hard my head fights against my words from sleepiness, my body would show reverence and honor to Him. Once or twice I have forgotten, and popped out of bed in the middle of the night as soon as I woke to perhaps an angel nudge? Funny thing is, my husband never asks what crazy thing I am doing. He just seems to know (or is too tired to ask!)