29 April 2022
On this Friday evening, I am reflecting on the traditional Jewish prayers before sleep at night, which begin:
‘Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who makes the bonds of sleep fall on my eyes, and slumber on my eyelids.
‘May it be your will, Lord my God and God of my fathers, that you make me lie down in peace and arise in peace.
‘Let not my imagination, bad dreams or troubling thoughts disturb me.
‘May my bed be flawless before you.
‘Enlighten my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death, for it is you who illuminate the pupil of the eye.
‘Blessed are you, Lord, who gives light to the whole world in his glory.’
Writing about these traditional prayers before sleep at night, the former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord (Jonathan) Sachs, says: ‘Just as our first words in the morning should be words of prayer, so should our last at night.’
He identifies ten components of these night prayers:
1, a prayer for peaceful sleep and a safe awakening, mentioned in the Talmud (Berachot 60b);
2, the first paragraph of the Shema, ensuring these words are with us ‘when we lie down’;
3, Psalm 91, a prayer for protection from danger;
4, Psalm 3, chosen because of its reference to night: ‘I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me’ (Psalm 3: 5);
5, ‘Help us lie down …’ – three paragraphs from the evening service;
6, ‘May the angel who rescued me from all harm …’ – a series of Biblical verses about safety and security;
7, A verse about angels, based on ‘The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them’ (Psalm 34: 7) and ‘He will command his angels about you, to guard you in all your ways’ (Psalm 91: 11);
8, Psalm 128, about work, recalling the phrase from Ecclesiastes 5: 12, ‘Sweet is the sleep of laborers, whether they eat little or much; but the surfeit of the rich will not let them sleep’
9, ‘When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent’ – words from Psalm 4: 4, mentioned in the Talmud (Berachot 4b) as an appropriate verse before sleep;
10, The hymn Adon Olam (אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם), ‘Eternal Lord’ or ‘Sovereign of the Universe,’ one of the best-known and best-loved Jewish prayers. It has been a regular part of the daily and Shabbat liturgy since the 15th century. It is said here because of its closing lines with their reference to entrusting our souls and bodies to God’s safekeeping at night:
Into his hand I commit my spirit
When I sleep, and I awake
And with my spirit, my body
The Lord is with me, I will not fear.
Scripture references are to the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
During this season of Easter, I am reflecting each morning on the Psalms, and in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning I am reflecting in these ways:
1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;
2, reading the psalm or psalms;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Psalm 65 begins a group of four psalms which are hymns of thanksgiving (Psalms 65-68), in contrast to the preceding psalms, which are laments. The Jerusalem Bible suggests this psalm is set ‘after a good year with plentiful rain.’
In the slightly different numbering in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, this psalm is counted as Psalm 63.
Psalm 65 begins in the style of a prayer, transitions to a description of God, and concludes with praise to God.
Verse 1 in the New Revised Standard Version is translated: ‘Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed’. But some translations introduce the concept of silence in this verse. For example, the New American Standard Bible translates verse 1: ‘There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, God, and the vow will be fulfilled for you.’
In Jewish tradition, Psalm 65 is recited on Yom Kippur, and in some traditions at Shmini Atzeret in some traditions, directly follows the festival of Sukkot which is celebrated for seven days. Shemini Atzeret is literally the eighth day. This is a separate – yet connected – holy day devoted to the spiritual aspects of the festival of Sukkot. This year it begins at sunset on 16 October and continues until nightfall on 17 October.
Verse 5 is recited by people present at a brit milah (בְּרִית מִילָה), the covenant of circumcision or religious ceremony of male circumcision.
Psalm 65 (NRSVA):
To the leader. A Psalm of David. A Song.
1 Praise is due to you,
O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
2 O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
3 When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
you forgive our transgressions.
4 Happy are those whom you choose and bring near
to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
your holy temple.
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
6 By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
7 You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
8 Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
9 You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Logging in the Solomon Islands,’ and was introduced on Sunday morning by Brother Christopher John SSF, Minister General of the Society of Saint Francis.
The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (29 April 2022) invites us to pray:
Let us pray for efforts to prevent gender-based violence in the Solomon Islands.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org