Watch, O Lord, with those who wake or weep tonight, and give your angels and saints charge over those who slumber.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ,
Rest your weary ones,
Bless your dying ones,
Soothe your suffering ones,
Pity your afflicted ones,
Shield your joyous ones,
And all for your love’s sake. Amen.
Woven into this ancient ‘evening prayer’ is an idea of God matching up our every need with overflowing grace and kindness. There is a pretty strong sense of God watching everyone! And there is also a “tending” sense that He has over all. God matches up to our every need, and His flock can be incredibly needy.
As I read this prayer, I seem to focus on the single phrase, “shield your joyous ones.” To think that this joyful people need protection strikes me as odd. Why do they even need a “shield?” Of all people, don’t they have it together?
As I thought it through, I started to realize that joy is standing in the shadow of warfare. The joyful ones are companions– “buddies” who share the same ‘fox hole’ on enemy lines. Nehemiah told those trying to build the city walls, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Joy connects with the desperate need of the moment; it is the muscle of all ministry. And as a result, perhaps more vulnerable.
He didn’t say that the joy of the Lord is our happiness, or cheeriness, or merriment. But rather, it would impart strength, and stiffen ones ability to go to war for our brothers and sisters, our churches and communities. There are certain epoxy resins that will only harden when a special light is used on them. Maybe joy transforms into strength when we step toward our Father.
We need to spiritually protect and cover those who are His “joyous ones.” They can be found sprinkled throughout our churches and ministries. And they need us to shield them. They seem to be quite exceptional, and seemingly invulnerable. But that isn’t the case. We need to pray for them. Joyful people inspire me in the battle. They are the “special forces” in our fellowships.