Prayer is not just frill - it speaks from deep within us, from our created self. It submits to the "darkness on the face of the deep" and wakes up to the Lord's daylight. We all sleep. We all wake up. Out of these states, we realize the will of our Creator and Redeemer in us. Sleeping and waking are not just physical, but are spiritual as well. The conditions of the body are also spiritual modes.
Psalm 4 marks the transition from the daylight world, where it's easy to suppose we are in control, to the night world where we relinquish our grip on our jobs, people and even our thoughts, and experience the Will that is greater than ours ; the God who answers before we ask, Who acts before we even prompt.
Our lives begin asleep in the womb - formed in the darkness, where we are made. When we finally do venture into the daylight, we still spend much time in the passive mode of sleep, as others care for us in the areas where we have no wisdom or strength to care for ourselves. We gradually spend more time in the awake hours and take up tasks for ourselves. But we never arrive at the point where we are beyond sleep and are self-sufficient 24 hours a day. Daily we must give up consciousness and submit ourselves to Who is deeper than consciousness in order to grow, to be healed, to be created, to be saved. Going to sleep is beyond a biological act - it is an act of faith. People living by faith welcome the evening hour of prayer - disengaging from the world and sinking into God's Words.
Returning to sleep is hard for us because we want to stay in control. We want to oversee our world. Evening prayer is a deliberate act of our spirit that cultivates willingly what our bodies finally force on us.
Psalm 4 is a symmetrical beauty from the clamorous beginning:
"Answer when I call, O God of my right" (vs 1)
to the quiet conclusion:
"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for thou alone, O Lord makest me dwell in safety." (vs 8)
There are two contrasts here that are worthy to notice:
"The Immature who are unhappy over what they don't have, and the Mature who are happy with what they do have."
St Francis de Sales
The center of the prayer moves us from self assertion, where we push our vain wills on the people and circumstances around us - acting as though we are in charge of the universe - to a believing obedience that acts as if God is in charge and that submits to becoming the kind of person God is in charge of.
We all have things go wrong in our days. They may well be things done out of spite, malice or blasphemy. We are to face the lowest of the day, and be angry; but sin not. Our anger is not a work agenda for us to plan a vengeance that will right the wong. What is wrong with the world is God's business - not ours. We have our part, and when morning comes, we'll get our assignments. Meanwhile, God is giving help at a far deeper level than our meddling will ever reach.
"Commune with your own hearts on your beds."
We would be wise to speak to ourselves, to listen to ourselves.
We become strangers to ourselves in all the voices during the daylight. We need to become reacquainted with the person God created - not just the person we have been in order to get through the day.
"And be silent.."
Nothing more needs to be said. No explanations, no boastings no apologies. This is WHO we are. More important than liking or not liking ourselves, more significant than the day's failures and accomplishments; there WE are. In the silence, we must simply be the person God gathers to Himself.
"Offer right sacrifices"
God transforms what we place before Him. It is no longer in our hands to try and improve it. We had all day, and now He has all night. His will is to work with our offerings, not our perfections. We've lived our day - now we must leave it on the altar as an offering.
"And put your trust with the Lord."
We sleep and He transforms.
Dare we even think about any other way?
May we remember the pattern of this Psalm, and relinquish whatever control we think we have each night. Let us lie down in peace, ready to be nourished by you. As our bodies drift off to sleep, I pray we will gladly hand over the cares of the day to You; hand over our very beings to You, and welcome Your voice. May our ears and hearts be attentive to You. Transform our day, our actions, our very selves into what You want us to be. Heal our pain. Heal our broken hearts and lost dreams. Renew our visions and refresh our bodies. We praise You and thank You for Your Word and all the blessings we have through it. Forgive us when we take it so lightly, and open our eyes to the value it has on our daily life.
We praise You and honor You.
In Jesus' name we pray,