A prayer at eventide

I’ve moved from a traditional Universalist prayerbook’s evening prayer to vespers — a related service, but very different in structure and tone — because it is more meditative, more focused on the night, and night as a foreshadow of death. But considering death then turns us back to life, so the experience isn’t gloomy, but a solace.

This prayer speaks to me as the apex of vespers. That “…shall be heard by us no more” is hopeful: our future lies in God, and generations will live after us.  That’s hope.

O blessed God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Take us into thy gracious keeping for this night; and make us mindful of that night when the noise of this busy world shall be heard by us no more. O Lord, in whom we trust, help us by thy grace so to live that we may never be afraid to die, and grant that at the last as now our evensong may be: I will lay me down in peace, and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. Amen.

It’s not clear who wrote this prayer, or when. It is distinctly Universalist, but has echoes in other sources. It was written no later than 1863 — an age well acquainted with painful memories of the dead — and appeared in James Martineau’s Common Prayer for Christian Worship, so he may be the source.