Night time prayers
“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.
St. Augustine of Hippo. The Book of Common Prayer p. 134.
This gift from St. Augustine is one of the night time prayers from compline, an evening service to be read just before bedtime. The brief prayer service can be said by families or groups as a gathering just before retiring. I particularly remember when our friends Barbara and Hap Hoffman came to our house and said compline with our family every night for six weeks while I was recovering from surgery. In my medical practice, this prayer was meaningful as I could visualize the people I knew working at night at our Children’s Hospital and the patients we were all helping to care for. This prayer also gave me strength when I was on call at the hospital at night, knowing that there were people all over the globe saying these prayers. As compline became a more regular part of my rule of life, I began to visualize people in other professions working at night in grocery stores, restaurants, airlines, police stations. I remembered those dying as well as those mourning the death of a loved one. I began praying for the joyous.
All of these prayers ever so briefly have helped me get out of myself and all my problems as I began praying and thinking about others. This service calms my soul, and is better than any sleeping pill or drug or drink.
Below is another night time prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book. I especially relate to the part, “what has been done has been done; what has not been done, let it be.” I keep remembering the CS Lewis quote you will often hear from me, “We do not pray to change God. We pray to change ourselves.” Night time prayers can change us.
New Zealand Prayer Book
it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done;
let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
In your name we pray.”
Amen. p. 184.