Night Prayer

Night Prayer

Night Prayer.

“Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace. Amen.”  (concluding prayer of the Compline).

“Night Prayer” is another name for the Compline, a service of evening prayers said before going to bed. It was probably first officially formed by St. Benedict of the 6th century when he established his monastic communities in Europe. The Compline is a part of the formal prayers in most liturgical churches, including Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican.

Guide us waking, O Lord…

When we are awake during our busy days, what better help can we receive than Christ’s guidance? Each day we are on a ship in the wide open sea and we don’t know what will happen, or where the ship will go. With Jesus as Captain, though, we can trust the direction, and we can count on spiritual protection from any ill winds or fierce storms. We will still see those storms, but the Captain will guide us through them and protect our souls from destruction. Each day is a different leg of the ship’s journey, but we know the ultimate destination, the eternal kingdom of God. And we know that the Captain will guide us there safely. “Yahweh will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places. And He will strengthen your bones.” (Isaiah 58:11).

And guard us sleeping…

We are never more vulnerable than when we are asleep. Our defenses are down and we lie there helpless. If ever there was a time we needed to be guarded, it is during the night when we are fast asleep.  Our unawareness is obvious, and so going to sleep is just as much an act of faith as when we journey forth during the waking day. We trust that God and His angels will guard us during the night. The old saints used to call sleep the “little death,” because sleep mimics death in its lack of consciousness. And in biblical vernacular, death was often indirectly referred to as sleep. And just as we assume we will wake up after our sleep has ended, we also have the faith that our death is only for a time, that we will wake up from our sleep of death into life everlasting. “He who keeps you will not slumber. The Lord will protect you from all evil. He will keep your soul.” (Psalm 121:3, 7)

That awake we may watch with Christ…

The biblical word for watch was in the context of the watchman, someone who was vigilant to guard and protect others, to alert those who will defend against enemies. When we watch with Christ, we join Him in keeping our eyes peeled for possible harm to the faithful Church, to the poor and forgotten, to the least of these. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chron. 16:9). We are spiritually observant during our watch as we put on God’s armor to guard against spiritual attack. When we watch with Christ, we are also keeping our eyes on the signs of the times, aware of which way the cultural winds are blowing. To watch is to be forewarned and thus, forearmed. To watch is to be vigilant in one’s awareness of people and places, friends and enemies, sunshine and storms. Someone on watch can not fall asleep on the job. “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest.” (Isaiah 62:6). “Be watchful, because your enemy the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).

And asleep we may rest in peace.

We all need rest in many different ways. Sometimes we need mental rest, other times physical rest. We also require emotional rest at times. The rest that puts it all together is blessed sleep. To rest in peace is probably on everybody’s lips as the head hits the pillow. When we sleep, the metabolism slows down, our brain activity decreases, our body gets a needed break, our emotions can take a step back. God designed our bodies to require that kind of complete rest at regular intervals. And sleeplessness will always lead to complete breakdown sooner or later. For those unlucky enough to find sleep elusive, a solution to that dilemma needs to be found before long. The first thing to do if sleepless is to pray about finding a peaceful rest. And then the sleepless party needs to discover what is causing the sleeplessness, whether it’s diet, or lifestyle, or a restless mind, or a troubled heart, or even a biochemical imbalance in the brain. But first pray for the peace that passes understanding. Pray for the grace that is rest. “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5). “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  (Psalm 4:8).

A Closing Prayer in 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.”