Yesterday we looked at getting a good night’s sleep. We considered some well known bedtime prayers and a great ancient hymn from St. Ambrose. Since we spend a third of our life in sleep, there is room for more discussion about it from Biblical illustrations to Christian music. How many mattress ads have you received in the paper in the past two weeks? How many TV commercials have you seen for the “perfect night’s sleep” whether it be a pill or another mattress? The world is talking about sleep all the time. It should be no wonder that God does too and that hymnists have given us a rich heritage on the topic.
It was while sleeping on a stone — how’s that for a prime sleep aid — that Jacob had the vision of the ladder to heaven. God revealed to him precious promises in his sleep. Pharaoh had a dream that ultimately got Joseph out of jail and saved his family from starvation. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that elevated Daniel to a leadership position in the government. Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep, probably because of all the pounding made by his next door neighbor Haman, and that led to the safety of Mordecai and the salvation of the Jews. The disciples fell asleep when they should have been praying and were not ready to face the hour of temptation at Jesus’ arrest. Those are just a few instances of sleep that are mentioned. Doctrinal study on the issue would require more space than today allows.
Paul Gerhardt, who had endured the horrors of the 30 Years War, wrote two lovely evening hymns. “Now All the Woods Are Sleeping” and “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow” both call for the comfort of God to watch over us at night. Both are confident expressions of His grace and love that call the Christian to calm rest in the darkness of night or life. The most famous hymn that came from the Reformation period about evening is one that we have forgotten was written for evening prayer. We kept the chorus and forgot the song. But here it is, the masterful work of Thomas Ken, who himself was suffering for his testimony for Christ. “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night.” It is sung to the tune of its more famous chorus, the Doxology. Sleep well with these words.
“All praise to Thee, my God, this night for all the blessings of the light. Keep me, oh, keep me, King of kings, beneath Thine own almighty wings. Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son, the ill that I this day have done; that with the world, myself and Thee, ere I sleep, at peace may be.”