Psalm 102:1-2 – Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. (NRSV)
A couple of nights ago, we were awakened by a great commotion outside. Coyotes were in the area — probably in the field behind our house — yipping and howling and carrying on. There were also clear sounds of an animal in distress. That usually means the coyotes have found dinner. I'm also told that, especially in spring, it can mean that a coyote pup is in distress, being attacked by some other night creature, and other coyotes are coming to protect the pup. Either way, it was a vivid reminder of "the circle of life", and the fact that many animals survive by preying on other animals.
Night can be a scary time for all of God's creatures, regardless of whether we are another's prey or not. Darkness obscures things; we can fail to see, or recognize, dangers that are around us. When we're outside in the dark, the sounds of the night can seem loud and unfamiliar. We don't know what lies in wait for us!
Whenever these thoughts come to me, I recall the following liturgy for Evening Prayer, taken from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
- Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This prayer, written in such an ancient style, makes me think of a time when night would have been even scarier than it is now: a time before electric lights and 24-hour media — a time when mysteries really did abound at night. I find the prayer very evocative!
And yet, from time immemorial, God has reminded us that He is our protection, and that whenever we are in distress, we can call upon Him. Further, Jesus assures us that He is the light of the world and that He is our protector.
John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." (NRSV)
Psalm 121:1-3 – I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. (NRSV)
Darkness can take many forms in our lives: anxiety, bereavement, psychological darkness, a crisis of faith, etc. Whenever I am faced with darkness of any kind — and we all are from time to time — I don't try to be brave and face it on my own. I look to Jesus for help — for light. Take a moment today and consider any areas of darkness or danger in your life, and pray to the Lord that He would bring light to you.
Let us look with faith to God, and He will enlighten us and protect us, all our days.
Prayer: Lighten our darkness, we pray, O Lord, and by Your great mercy, defend us from all perils and dangers, all the days and nights of our lives. We pray this in faith, confident of the love of Your only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In His name, we pray. Amen.