For the College Students: A Prayer for the Moonstruck

The new freshmen have arrived at ACU!

This morning, as a part of our Passport and Welcome Week activities, I got to visit with some of our incoming Psychology majors to get their first semester schedules worked out. This Thursday our faculty, along with spouses and kids, will eat dinner with all of our new majors.

Interacting with our new majors today I was struck by the diversity of their emotions. Some were already homesick. Some were scared and overwhelmed. Some were excited and bouncing off the walls with energy and excitement.

Thinking about our new freshmen, and all our ACU students, I was looking for a psalm of protection to pray over them. Psalm 121 is a leading and quirky contender:

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Two quirky details draw me to this psalm. These occur in verses five and six.

In verse five we read that the LORD is your shade at your right hand / the sun will not harm you by day.

If you haven't heard, Texas has been baking all summer. The projected highs for the next seven days in Abilene are: 104, 103, 106, 107, 105, and 104 degrees. You get the idea. So, yes, the incoming freshmen need Psalm 121 prayed over them: the LORD is your shade at your right hand / the sun will not harm you by day.

The second quirky detail immediately follows the petition for protection from the sun: the sun will not harm you by day / nor the moon by night.

Beware the moon! Pray that it will not harm you. Pray for protection from both sunstroke and moonstroke. (BTW, that's how The Message renders these verses: God's your Guardian, right at your side to protect you / Shielding you from sunstroke / sheltering you from moonstroke.)

I worked for four years at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Invariably, after some evening when the night shift reported all sorts of acting out by the patients, some grizzled veteran of a nurse would say, "Well, it was a full moon last night." The moon was always invoked by the staff to explain the crazy behavior of the patients on nights when the moon was full.

I've found that is is very common. In just about every profession that has to deal with a population in the evenings--hospital workers, police, prison guards, dorm supervisors--the moon is often invoked to explain why, when the moon is full, people seem to lose their minds.

Of course, you know that this is where we get the words "lunatic" and "lunacy" from, the ancient (and persistent!) notion that the full moon makes people a little nutty. It's what sits behind the whole werewolf myth, the sense that there is a "monster" inside us that gets pulled out by the sight of the full moon.

Is this a pagan notion? Well, there it sits in Psalm 121: A prayer for protection from the moon.

Which brings me back to my college students. Sure, they need protection from sunstroke in West Texas. But what they really need is protection from moonstroke. From the lunacy of college nights. Full moon or not. Their howling at the moon during the semester is probably the greater threat to their sanity, morality, life and limb and GPA.

And so, here at the start of the school year, let the righteous lift up this prayer of protection--Psalm 121--for the moonstruck college students the world over:
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

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13 thoughts on “For the College Students: A Prayer for the Moonstruck”

  1. I did a 3 month internship with some missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand immediately after graduating from college.  I prayed this Psalm almost every day I was there.  Wonderful choice.

  2. Kind of funny, during the full moon the topping mix on pizzas seems to change.  We'd go through more pineapple, green olives and jalapenos than at any other time.

    Nice blessing for your students.  And blessings on you, too during this school year.

  3. That's really nice. I'm just starting as a grad student, so I'm not in quite the same situation as the little freshers, but I am 5000 miles away from my family and friends. Presumably at some point the excitement of being in the Bay Area (SQUEE!) will wear off, and eventually homesickness will strike...

  4. I pray that my son's instructors at Texas Tech care as deeply for the freshman students who just arrived. He's in the category of thrilled with this new adventure, and classes start tomorrow. 

  5. I've developed a hypothesis that my bouts of insomnia are linked to full moons.  When I share this in company (ouch!) I routinely get roundly ridiculed (I'm a slow learner) - but then a male acquaintance will always come up quietly afterwards (coward) and say, "I've always thought that too".  Any Beckites out there care to join the group...?

  6. Working weekend graveyard shifts behind the desk at a bowling alley when I was 18/19, I was told by a career bowling alley worker as well as security that full moon evenings definitely correlated with people's potential problematic behavior.  I can't objectively recall problems particularly attributed to full moon evenings, but I can definitely correlate HOT EVENINGS + idle people walking outside in the streets (to get away from day-baked homes) looking for places to hang out - that was an environment susceptible to potential problems.   Therefore, I can't help but wonder how night "activity" is in Texas, hearing about you guys suffereing 80 consecutive days with temperatures over 100 degrees.

    Gary Y.

  7. A friend who is a pediatric nurse says that not only are full moon nights busier for the ER, but also much busier for labor and delivery.

  8. Hi Patricia,

    I have heard from several people who work in various industries that require evening work which deals directly with people and that full moon testimony is quite prominent.  Interesting that it applies to labor and delivery ... physiologically apparently.

    Gary Y.

  9. Thank you for reminding me of this psalm.  I just sent my first child to college for her freshman year, and I miss her more than I ever thought I could.  Praying this psalm will help me manage.

  10. If the Bible says that God's protection of his people will keep them from harm from the sun and moon, this is using an anaalogy from the physical universe to reassure  the Christian that God will not allow him or her to be harmed by the physical elements. It implies that the moon can indeed harm you under certain conditions. We already know that if we stare at the sun without the proper eyeshade, we can go blind. There must be something about the moon in the creation that can have deleterious effects on people, too. I found this to be a very interesting post.

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