“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”
The prayer above comes from the Order for Compline (see BCP p. 127ff) and appears near the end of the Order as one of the options the person leading can choose to pray. When we were on the ASP Mission Trip the 16 of us, often joined by the ASP staff or members of the other two churches who were there that week with us, closed the day with this simple service. After we said Compline there was a brief moment of silence and then I asked our group two questions: Where did you see God alive and active in your day today; What do you hope for tomorrow?
The answers the group gave to these two questions often were surprising, sometimes funny, but always sincere. Of the two sets of answers, the most honest and sometimes most difficult to hear were the hopes of the members of our team. Yes, there were hopes about getting our projects finished, but there were also hopes about the relationships we were building both with one another and with the families we were serving.
On Friday night, our last night together on the mission trip, the final question I asked was, “What do you hope you will take back with you from your time here?” Some hoped for the persistent memory of the family they were serving–that they not forget that within a car ride away there were people they KNEW who lived in abject poverty. Some hoped for the family they served–that they would be made more whole and secure by the improvements made to their homes. Others hoped that when they returned home they would feel more thankful for what they had, realizing afresh that possessions and “things” are not what make people happy in the end…that love, family and faith are much more important than the latest “thing.”
In reading the prayer above, I’m struck by the set of “hopes” that are mentioned and the wonderful verbs that are used: tend, give rest, bless, soothe, pity, shield. Even the overarching hope that God will “Keep watch” over us if we are awake throughout the night is indeed not solely a petition but a sincere hope.
Take a moment and look at your day, either yesterday or today. Where have you seen God alive and active in your day? And, what is your hope for tomorrow? Offer these to God as the prayer of your heart, knowing that God is indeed keeping watch over you…as you watch, work or weep…tending, giving rest, blessing, soothing, pitying and shielding you. All of this is done for the sake of God’s love for you, for us, for the world.