I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope: my soul waits for the Lord.

Psalm 130:5-6

Treasury and unfailing source of blessings, Holy Father, Worker of wonders, almighty and omnipotent, it is You we all worship, You we entreat, invoking Your mercies and compassion to help redeem our weakness. Be mindful, O Lord, of Your servants; accept our morning prayers as incense brought before You, and count none of us unworthy but protect us all in Your kindness. Be mindful, Lord, of those who keep vigil and sing Your glory, and that of Your Only-Begotten Son and our God, and of Your Holy Spirit. Be to them their help and support; accept their supplications at Your celestial and spiritual altar. For You are our God, and to You we offer glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

(Adapted from the Translation by Narthex Press of the 12 Orthros Prayers)

There are twelve prayers that a priest offers during the Orthros (Matins) service which are never heard aloud. Each has a theme that sets the tone for the day. I don’t think there is anything wrong with me sharing these prayers or for anyone to pray them. I enjoy sharing thoughts about faith and about Christ each day, as well as giving you occasional insights into the priesthood. I hope the reflections on these prayers will give all of us something to think and add to our spiritual journeys. I’m changing the format of the Prayer Team for these reflections—both the scripture verse and the prayer will precede the reflection for this unit.

I’ve never been a fan of the word “try.” I remember the words of Yoda in Star Wars who said “Do, or do not. There is no try.” However, there are a few times when I believe this word is appropriate, and this prayer is one of those.

Today, we are going to focus on the phrase “Be mindful, Lord, of those who keep vigil.” These words bring to mind several images: Soldiers standing guard at a fort. Soldiers standing watch over the funeral for a head of state. Monks standing in chairs around the sides of a monastery church during a long service. People standing around the bedside of a loved one who is dying. All of these represent a kind of vigil.

In every one of these situations, the people involved have a good deal of resolve. It takes strength and focus to stand watch with someone. Even when it is your family member you are watching. It takes strength and stamina to put aside other things, other work, even other thoughts, to focus on one person or one situation.

Imagine how many times the people who are keeping vigil become distracted. Even disciplined soldiers are known to pass out from dehydration. Even monks get tired of the lengthy services sometimes. Even family members need a respite from the stress of being in the hospital room with their loved one. All of these people are trying to give a good effort, and eventually, the ways of the world—hunger, fatigue, thirst, etc.—will cause even the most resolved of people to break their vigil. So, in a sense, we/they all try and fail, and try again, and fail. And the cycle continues. This is where the word “effort” comes in. Effort is how hard we’ve tried before having to stop, or how hard we come back after we have fallen away. God knows that we are all going to fail, therefore He is more concerned with our effort, how disciplined we are in trying not to fail, and how we rebound when we have failed.

There are lots of people who are trying to do the right thing. When I offer this prayer each Orthros service, I think of people like some college students who I know, who are striving to seek Christ-centered lives. Except for most of them, they aren’t getting a lot of encouragement. Students on college campuses seem to have everything but Christ on their minds. I think of the people who are told to bill extra hours for their companies, hours that they know they are not working, who are knowingly fudging because they’ll lose their jobs if they don’t. I think of the high school students who feel pressured to cheat on homework and tests because “everyone is doing it” and they risk a lower grade and potentially not going to college if they don’t. There are lots of people who are trying to keep vigil for things that are noble, honorable, right and true and who are constantly tempted to take a shortcut.

This prayer calls to our mind those who keep vigil, especially for noble causes, and asks God to protect them in His kindness.

Each of us will hold a vigil of some kind for some cause. It might be a public cause or it might just be a private battle to be honest and true. It might be a battle we fight in silence. I’ve written many times about our secret hearts, which are filled with struggles and brokenness that we feel ashamed to admit to anyone, sometimes we can’t even admit it to ourselves. And in the meantime, we are trying to be Christians, we show up to worship, even in our shame. This prayer is for everyone who is trying, struggling, and still do-ing what it means to be a Christian. The prayer asks for God to remember those who are still fighting to live a Christian life, even as the world seems against them.

Encouragement for today: Think of people who keep vigil—people who are trying to be good Christians but who are struggling. Pray for them. Find one and encourage him or her. Think of the areas of your Christian life where you are struggling and ask God to stand vigil with you in your struggle to believe and serve Him.