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.
I often pray those words each night before I turn in. It’s my favorite petition from The Book of Common Prayer; you pray them as part of compline, or night-time prayers. When I first found this prayer, I wondered about that last request: “Shield the joyous.” It seemed out of place amongst the others which bid the Divine’s action on much weightier concerns.
Tend and give rest, bless and soothe, and yes, Holy One, be moved with pity on those crushed by the chances of this life. All of that, yes, most certainly. But shielding the joyous sounded so extravagant. Keep the blessed ones happy, Lord. Sure, I thought as I prayed it, but not quite certain why they needed to be shielded if their lives overflowed with joy anyway.
I learned this morning that a young man in his early twenties I’ve been holding up in prayer received a devastating diagnosis. My first thoughts contained an expletive or two. And then deep sympathy for both him and his parents and all those who love him. I thought of that prayer and the requests to the Almighty to tend and give rest and soothe and pity. Be present with them and fill them with hope and trust and a deep peace as they work through their grief and anger and fear and unanswerable questions of why this happened now to one much too young.
And I also thought about the people I know experiencing deep joy right now and how I hope God shields them from life-draining news on this day. That somehow they are protected from flaming arrows launched by the forces of evil in this world bringing harm and destruction. I know full well that none of us makes it through life without some of those arrows sticking, but please, Lord, shield them a bit longer. Let them relish in the new job or the birth of a child, that new romance or period of healing after such a rough go. Keep our children safe from that which steals their innocence and their elation in life.
I know now that more often than not the days of utter joy are not long enough. Job loss and illness and broken relationships and addictions happen with more frequency than I can comprehend. So yes, Lord, shield the joyous. Keep them on Cloud 9 or in the tender moments of family life or that place of peace a bit longer. Stretch it out as long as possible, so that when circumstance force them to the other parts of that prayer, when they need to be soothed or pitied or tended to, they might have the strength to make it through.
Join me in praying for or sending good wishes or taking a moment of quiet reflection — however you do that when you are faced with horrible news — for a young man facing a hard road today. That the darkness be overcome and that he once again experiences unfettered joy. And may you find comfort as well whether you need to be tended or given rest or soothed or pitied or shielded today.