A Prayer at Bedtime

From the Orthodox Prayers Before Sleep

Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered! Let those who hate Him flee from before His face! As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish. As wax melts before the fire, so let sinners perish before the face of those who love God and sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross and say joyfully: rejoice, most precious and life-creating Cross of the Lord, which chases demons away through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was nailed to you, descended into hell and, having trampled down the power of the devil, gave to us His precious Cross for the routing of all enemies. Help me for eve, most precious and life-creating Cross of the Lord, with the Holy Lady Virgin Theotokos and all the Saints. Amen.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





8 responses to “A Prayer at Bedtime”

  1. JS Bangs Avatar

    Erm, this is an evening prayer? I’ve been using it in the mornings.

  2. Fatherstephen Avatar

    It’s certainly not wrong to use it in the morning, but it comes from the prayers at bedtime. “Making the sign of the cross over your bed say:”

    Sometimes it’s called the prayer to the cross. If it works for your mornings I wouldn’t change a thing.

  3. Erik Avatar

    I have trouble with this prayer. First, there is the line, “let sinners perrish before the face of those who love God . . .” I always imagine myself as one of those sinners who would perrish. And then there’s the idea of saying a prayer to the cross. I’m a recent convert, and in my ignorance, I find this a bit strange. Could you please explain the idea behind it?

  4. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The version I say from the Jordonville Prayer Book does not use “sinners”, but “demons” which are both literal demons and figurative in the sense that our sins sometimes hound us like demons.

    When I first became Orthodox, I too felt strange praying to the Cross as if it were a living being. I no longer have any qualms. A few reasons why: 1)It was from the Cross that Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” 2) The Cross convey’s the power of Christ’s suffering for us, His overcoming of the world, the flesh, and the devil. 3)It is through the Cross that we can know and experience that victory for ourselves. The Cross comes before the Resurrection. 4) I have experienced this prayer’s power to deliver people from oppression, but I always pray the version that refers to demons.

    If you have never seen the icon of Extreme Humility, I recommend it. It is Christ on the Cross in all of His pain and agony. At my parish, it is the icon that our priests face as they are preparing the Holy gifts.

  5. mrh Avatar

    Erik, the opening of the prayer is from Psalm 68:1-2. The KJV and RSV both translate it “let the wicked perish.” It is an interesting nuance. We are accustomed to praying “have mercy on me a sinner” but how many of us pray “have mercy on me the wicked”? I’d be interested to know if there’s interesting history behind this difference in translation.

    I view this eschatologically – at the end times those reckoned righteous in Christ will live and those condemned will perish. No doubt Fr. Stephen has more wisdom here.

  6. Lucas Avatar


    Another way of understanding this is to call to mind how in Holy Baptism the ‘Old Man’ (the sinner and enemy of God we all are before Baptism–see the writings of St. Paul) dies and a new man rises from the waters.

    Every day we are converted anew–further trying to put the Old Man to death and becoming Christlike: this is repentance. When I pray this psalm I meditate on repentance and how I desire that, through the Grace of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross, all that within me that is sinful (of the Old Man) and at enmity with God would perish, vanish like smoke and melt away as wax, revealing me as the new creation Christ calls me to be.

    Finally, remember that this prayer is listed as an Evening Prayer. You may have noticed that our prayers before bed are penitential in character calling upon God for His mercy. I think that this personally repentant understanding of the psalm fits within the character of evening prayers.

    Father Stephen, is this a legitimate interpretation of the psalm? I submit my musings to the ultimate understanding which the Church has given this psalm.

    pray for me, a sinner.

  7. Fatherstephen Avatar

    It’s always good to get some context with Orthodox prayers. The “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered….as wax melts…. etc.” is from the Psalms (68 or 69 in the LXX). It is the verse that is recited each year in the liturgy for the announcment of the Resurection and therefore always has those assosciations. Those whom we are asking to perish are the wicked spirits and the evil one who would hold us in bondage or tempt us to sin.

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