“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night . . .”
That is the beginning petition of an evening prayer from The Book of Common Prayer. I am not Episcopalian, but for decades now I have used The Book of Common Prayer as a vital part of my prayer life. It never fails to inspire or sometimes disturb me, like this opening petition.
To begin with it reminds me that the world does not revolve around me. Not everyone sleeps when I do. Every night when I lay my head down after a long day, many are just getting started. There are those who work. I live in central Florida. It is typically hot here during the day. By hot I mean sometimes your flip-flops melt to the sidewalk. What we lack in heat we make up for in humidity. It is pretty easy to work up a sweat outside. Open the door and step out on the porch. That will do it. For those reasons many road projects are done at night under portable lights. Not only is it safer (less traffic) but also it is far more humane to work in the night heat than the day heat. There are others who work in factories and services that require an overnight shift. While I sleep they will be toiling away providing goods and services that make my life better, maybe even possible. Lord, watch over them.
Some watch while we sleep. When I read that phrase I think of the military. While I am sleeping some soldier, most likely a young adult, stays awake in various posts and places. Lord protect them and bring them home soon. I think of those in law enforcement. Men and women with badges stay awake to keep our cities and communities safe. They stay awake so they can be there when we need them. While I sleep they patrol. Keep them safe. Give them good judgment. I also think of those in the medical profession, from first responders to surgeons. While I sleep they are awake in case we need them. They are there in ambulances and they keep the hospitals running for those who are there and those who might need to be. Of course there are also the firefighters. They watch too. Spending the night away from family ready to respond to our emergencies. Lord watch over all them. Guide their decisions. Give them abundant compassion.
And some will weep. As I lay down to sleep many will not. Some are worrying about an adult son or daughter. The situation they are in keeps them awake. They may lie in bed, but they do not sleep. They can’t sleep. In the dark tears fall. Some have lost someone they love. They do not lie down. They sit. They walk around. They mostly feel lost and empty. Someone has a loved one who is sick. They pray for them and they cry as they pray. For some the pain is their own. They cannot sleep. The possible situations are too numerous to mention. But, I am aware that as I give thanks for my day, there are others who are praying for strength to get through theirs. When I lay down to sleep there are many who will not, because they are in pain. Lord, watch over them. Comfort them. Heal them. Help them as only you can.
Once again I am reminded that I am not the center of the universe. When I check out for the evening, life will go on. People will work at their jobs, people will work to keep others safe, and people will face pain. While I sleep God is still in charge and He will do just fine without my help.