In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
Beginning and ending each day in the same way, we sanctify the waking moments to the Lord, confident that His grace and mercy will provide sufficient help to live each day in His faith and favor. In the same way, we commend to Him the night hours when our work is done and we are left to rest and dream. In this way God touches both ends of the day -- the morning hours in which we arise to serve Him and the nighttime hours in which we commend to Him the good we have done and our sins so that our bodies and minds might find refreshment in the quiet hours.
Devotional lives take on many forms. Some choose the complex patterns that require books and aids while others forego all forms in order to speak to God extemporaneously. Luther's counsel lies in the middle. It is not exactly an elaborate form but neither does it leave it up to the spirit of the man or woman to figure it out. Even better, it is a form and practice that commends itself to the child and to the aged -- both of whom may struggle with memory. Though some might find it simplistic, it is not at all and neither is it designed for the simplest minds. It accords itself for every station of life and for those who find themselves there.
Missing from above are two directions.
Then go joyfully to your work, singing a hymn, like that of the Ten Commandments, or whatever your devotion may suggest.
Then go to sleep at once and in good cheer.
Then go joyfully to your work. Ah, there is the reminder that man was created for work that had been created for man. Work is not some intolerable burden but the domain in which we exercise our vocation to the Lord. Whatever that vocation is, we serve the Lord where we are, doing what is good and right according to His Word and commands, and fulfilling the responsibilities that belong to us.
Then go to sleep at once and in good cheer. So many of us wish it were that easy. We toss and turn with the weight of today's troubles and tomorrow's fears stealing from us the rest we need so. It is the consequence of a people who have not surrendered to the Lord their sins and failings or their works and accomplishments. Holding onto both of these interrupts the night and our sleep. But the good cheer of a clear conscience and a firm conviction that the future is in the hands of the same God who has so graciously given us new birth in baptismal water and forgiven us all our sins will surely help the rest to come.
If that is not enough, feel free to add on Luther's humble prayers. If you choose, you may also say this little prayer:
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Good advice, Dr. Luther. And counsel I commend to you.