My wife and I have a nighttime routine for putting our 3-year-old son to bed that involves praying Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer:
“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.”
If you read that prayer from the Small Catechism, Luther has a concluding instruction: “go to sleep at once and in good cheer.”
That's all well and good for my son who has parents who take care of everything for him. The most stressful moment in his day is deciding whether he wants ketchup or BBQ sauce for his chicken nuggets. But you and I? We've got plenty of reasons not to go to sleep at once and in good cheer. I don't know about you, but when I go to bed at night, that's when my mind does its best work. I couldn’t focus after lunch when I needed to write those emails, but I'm firing on all cylinders when my head hits the pillow. Does that happen to you?
I’ll replay my failures from the day, especially the embarrassing ones. I shouldn’t have said that. What was I thinking? Was I too rude to that person? Was that the right response? I hope they didn’t take what I said the wrong way.
After failures, I'll go through a mental checklist of all the things that must get done the next day. How am I going to have enough time to get that done when this takes priority? Where am I going to find the time? And on top of all that, then comes the “what ifs.” The worst-case scenarios. Completely unreasonable, improbable things. Like the French essayist, Michel de Montaigne, wrote: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.”
We've just got too much to worry about to "go to sleep at once and in good cheer."
Or do we?
In his evening prayer, Luther intentionally invites us to commend our lives into the hands of our Heavenly Father. That line from his prayer—"For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things"—echoes Jesus' final words from the cross: “Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit.” That's not by accident.
When Jesus died, He committed Himself into His Father's hands. Whose hands? His Father's hands. The same Father would not take the cup of suffering away from Him. It was His Father's will to crush Him, to put Him to grief, and to make Him an offering for our guilt. But Jesus committed Himself into that Father’s hands, trusting that those hands would not abandon His soul to Sheol or let Him see corruption—those hands would raise Him from the dead.
And in doing so, Jesus also committed us into those very same hands.
St. Paul reminds us in Romans 6:3, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" When we are baptized, Jesus' death becomes our death. And Jesus died committing Himself into His Father's hands. So, guess what? Jesus has already committed you into His Father's hands. Through baptism, worrisome, anxious sinners who have fooled themselves into thinking they had anything to worry about in the first place, have been made beloved children of God.
We have a good, heavenly Father who has taken care of everything for us. He knows what His children need before we even ask. Even before we got ourselves into a mess of sin and death, He provided His Son, the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world to bring us into His family and under His gracious care for all eternity. The God that made the heavens and the earth loves you so much that He sacrificed His Son because He refused to live without you. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)
Jesus has already committed you into His Father's hands. No one can take you away from Him. You can't be taken out of the Father's hands any more than Jesus can be put back into the tomb. You can’t be ripped away from Jesus any more than you can be un-baptized.
So, whether we are closing our eyes to go to sleep or closing our eyes to go to sleep in death, we have nothing to worry about. Our whole lives—our bodies, our souls, and all things—are resting in the hands of our good, heavenly Father who raised Jesus from the dead.
Jake serves as the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Williston Park, NY. He received his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 2011. His passions include exploring the depths of God's grace, playing guitar, good coffee, White Castle burgers, and old school video games. Jake and his lovely wife, Christina, have one adorable little son named Roman.