3/18 Praying in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

It’s not the death that bothers me, but the dying. I get that sense from Jesus too as he prayed on Maundy Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane. Is there another way? Not my will but Thy will be done. There is the sense that Jesus knows this is going to be extremely difficult, and he prays that there might be a way apart from the terrible suffering.

As we approach Holy Week and begin to read again through the Gospel writers’ descriptions of Jesus death I cringe at the pain and suffering. I know that death doesn’t get the final word because Jesus rises on Easter Sunday, and LIFE is the final word. I know that my Redeemer Lives, and I know that all believers in Jesus will live too! Between now and then, however, is a potentially difficult time called dying.

There is an ancient prayer called the Litany that contains a line that it fitting here: “From sudden and evil death, Good Lord, deliver us.” And, in the Service of Compline also known as the “Prayer at the Close of the Day” there is a beautiful prayer:

“Abide with us Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. Abide with us and with Your whole Church. Abide with us at the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world. Abide with us with your grace and goodness, with Your holy Word and Sacrament, with Your strength and blessing. Abide with us when the night of affliction and temptation comes upon us, the night of fear and despair, the night when death draws near. Abide with us and with all the faithful, now and forever. Amen”

These prayers remind us that it’s normal to fear that process of death, and it’s important to turn to Jesus in our darkest hour. We get to turn to someone who has already been through it, to someone who knows suffering and pain and can assist us so that in the end we will fall asleep in peace in His loving arms to be woken gently in the morning when the sun rises and eternal dawn breaks.

Dear Jesus, abide with me now and forever.  Amen.

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