I had a lot of anxiety as a kid, particularly on Sunday nights. I can’t remember very clearly why I had trouble just then, but every Sunday evening after dinner when I was in middle school, I would completely freak out and have trouble calming myself down enough to go to sleep.
The thing that would calm me down the most, interestingly, was the theme song to the TV show “The Critic.” It was a fun, jazzy little song, but the part that comforted me the most was at the end, when main character Jay Sherman burrows down in his NYC apartment to go to sleep and the camera pans out, showing the entire skyline. There were lights on in his apartment building, and lights on all over the city.
And it gave me such a great comfort, at that young age, to know that in my anxiety and in my worry, I wasn’t alone. Other people were up, too, in cities like New York that never slept.
At night, every night – in the smack dead of night, no less – there are men and women who wake from their sleep far too early for normal people and dress and go to another room where they pray for the rest of the world. That is a reality. People whom you have never met, and will, in all likelihood, never meet, leave their comfortable beds and their dreams and they walk – willingly, mind you – and ask God to hear their prayers for and incredibly broken world. They pray for addicts, and for abused children. For victims of war, for people wrapped in hatred, for people in pain. They chant and pray and ask God for His mercy on those whom He has created but have gone so far from Him. They ask Him to see them, to heal them, to empower them, to sustain them.
They pray, in short, for you. For me, too.
Why do they pray in the middle of the night? Maybe it’s partly sacrifice – it is so meaningful that they would give up their sleep for others – but maybe it’s because it is in that incredible time of silence that God’s voice is the loudest. Maybe they know that God surely hears them all hours of the day and night, but it is in the darkest night that they can be assured of the best chance of hearing Him back.
There are many things I admire about monks and cloistered women religious. I respect their silence, their quiet confidence, their seemingly easy sense of abandonment to God and His desires. I myself am not a silent person, nor confident, and my sense of abandonment is anything but easy, although it’s a skill I am trying to practice daily. Does that make me any more or any less? I don’t think so. But there is so, so much I can learn from them.
This morning, I was awakened in the night by one of my children, who has a fever. My first thoughts were, admittedly, not of helping and of comforting; it was of my own bed and the dream I was in the middle in, and how cold it would be to go downstairs. I immediately began to think of the anxieties of the day: what would my children be like? Would my son get more sick throughout the day? What things did I have to get done? So many things.
It wasn’t until hours later, sufficiently caffeinated and my now both awake children quietly playing in the other room that I remembered that in my time of anxiety, there were others praying. There was another city that never sleeps, lighted only by candles and little lights that illumine pages of musical notes.
And the prayers of that night were, in their own way, sustaining me and were there for me to lean on, even in the daytime.
Prayer strengthens. Your prayers strengthen others. Their prayer strengthens you. You have my prayers for a happy, holy, calm Sunday day of rest.