The Evening Prayer
By Timothy Shay Arthur, 1853
"Our Father." The mother's voice was low, and tender, and solemn.
"Our Father." On two sweet voices the words were borne upward. It was the innocence of reverent childhood that gave them utterance.
"Who art in Heaven."
"Who art in Heaven," repeated the children, one with her eyes bent meekly down, and the other looking upward, as if she would penetrate the heavens into which her heart aspired.
"Hallowed be Thy name."
Lower fell the voices of the little ones. In a gentle murmur they said: "Hallowed be Thy name."
"Thy kingdom come."
And the burden of the prayer was still taken up by the children — "Thy kingdom come."
"Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in Heaven."
Like a low, sweet echo from the land of angels — "Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in Heaven," filled the chamber.
And the mother continued — "Give us this day our daily bread."
"Our daily bread" lingered a moment on the air, as the mother's voice was hushed into silence.
"And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors."
The eyes of the children had drooped for a moment. But they were uplifted again as they prayed — "And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors."
"And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen."
All these holy words were said, piously and fervently, by the little ones, as they knelt with clasped hands beside their mother. Then, as their thoughts, uplifted on the wings of prayer to their heavenly Father, came back again and rested on their earthly parents, a warmer love came gushing from their hearts.
Pure kisses — tender embraces — the fond "good-night." What a sweet tenderness pervaded all their feelings! Then two dear heads were placed side by side on the snowy pillow, the mother's last kiss given, and the shadowy curtains drawn.
What a gentle stillness reigns throughout the chamber! Inwardly the parents' listening ears are bent. They have given these little ones into the keeping of God's angels, and they can almost hear the rustle of their garments as they gather around their sleeping babes. A sigh, deep and tremulous, breaks on the air. Quickly the mother turns to the father of her children, with a look of earnest inquiry on her countenance. And he answers thus her silent question.
"Far back, through many years, have my thoughts been wandering. At my mother's knee thus said I nightly, in childhood, my evening prayer. It was that best and holiest of all prayers, "Our Father," that she taught me. Childhood and my mother passed away. I went forth as a man into the world, strong, confident, and self-seeking. Once I came into great temptation. Had I fallen in that temptation, I would have fallen, I sadly fear, never to have risen again. The struggle in my mind went on for hours. I was about yielding. All the barriers I could oppose to the in-rushing flood, seemed just ready to give way, when, as I sat in my room one evening, there came from an adjoining chamber, now first occupied for many weeks, the murmur of low voices. I listened.
At first, no articulate sound was heard, and yet something in the tones stirred my heart with new and strange emotions. At length, there came to my ears, in the earnest, loving voice of a woman, the words — 'Deliver us from evil.' For an instant, it seemed to me as if the voice were that of my mother. Back, with a sudden bound through all the intervening years, went my thoughts; and, a child in heart again, I was kneeling at my mother's knee. Humbly and reverently I said over the words of the holy prayer she had taught me, heart and eyes uplifted to Heaven. The temptation and the power of darkness had passed. I was no longer standing in slippery places, with a flood of waters ready to sweep me to destruction; but my feet were on a rock."
My mother's pious care had saved her son. In the holy words she taught me in childhood, was a living power to resist evil through all my after life. Ah! that unknown mother, as she taught her child to repeat his evening prayer — how little did she dream that the holy words were to reach a stranger's ears, and save him through memories of his own childhood and his own mother! And yet it was so. What a power there is in God's Word, as it flows into and rests in the minds of innocent children!
Tears were in the eyes of the wife and mother as she lifted her face, and gazed with a subdued tenderness upon the countenance of her husband. Her heart was too full for utterance. A little while she thus gazed, and then, with a trembling joy, laid her head upon his bosom. Angels were in the chamber where their dear ones slept, and they felt their holy presence.