Night Time Prayers, Compline
“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. Book of Common Prayer p. 134. Church Publishing.
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 individuals but also 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.
There are also beautiful night time prayers in A New Zealand Prayer Book (p. 184, HarperCollins 1989). I especially relate to one line, “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.” We can be especially vulnerable to change in our night time prayers.
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