Soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous . . . all for your love's sake. Amen.

Some needs don’t fall under specific categories like sickness, weariness, and dying. Our Advent prayer broadens the scope of those needing to be watched over to include all who are suffering and all who are afflicted. Suffering is part of the ebb and flow of life. We all suffer at times. When we suffer, even if we don’t know how long the pain will last, we hope and wait for an endpoint. Affliction takes suffering to the next level. Affliction is suffering that is chronic with no expectation that it will ever end.

God soothes the suffering. Our prayer asks God to ease pain and distress and give comfort. This sounds nice but can be difficult for us to receive. To admit that we are suffering requires us to admit that we are vulnerable. At times, it seems easier to soothe ourselves in unhealthy ways than to be vulnerable enough to allow God (or another human being) to care for us in our weakness. We need the soothing assurance that we are safely cared for.

The afflicted need God’s pity. The word pity has fallen on hard times in our culture, being seen as a condescending response to someone’s hardships. Our prayer says otherwise when it asks God to pity the afflicted. Pity shares in afflictions and feels the unending sadness and pain with the afflicted. We ask Lord Christ to do more than simply observe how overwhelming our affliction is. We ask him enter into our pain, to be afflicted with us.

After praying for the sick, weary, dying, suffering, and afflicted, our prayer surprises us with one more request: shield the joyous. The vulnerability of joy can unnerve us just as much as suffering’s can. We mistrust joy. But we need joy. Joy is all that is good in life alongside all that is not good. It needs protection, so that it can be celebrated with gratitude. Each night along with all those who are suffering and afflicted, there are also those who are joyful. We ask Lord Christ to shield them and their joy.


You who live in the shelter of the Most High,  who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,  will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” 

Psalm 91:1-2


  • Pray our prayer each night before bed.
  • This week’s scripture is God’s version of the Spanish saying, Mi casa es su casa. (My house is your house.) Reflect on what it means to live in God’s house as shelter, shadow, refuge, and fortress. How might this house bring soothing, pity, and shielding to suffering, affliction, and joy?

  • Once again there are no limitations in our prayer: we pray for all who are suffering, afflicted, and joyous. Pray especially this week for those you know or know about who are suffering, afflicted, and joyous.
  • Name your sufferings, afflictions, and joys. How might God soothe, pity, and shield you?


Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.