Friday, February 10, 2012

Compline: Prayer That Closes the Day

Compline, the final prayer office in the liturgical day, is believed to have been first instituted during the 6th century by St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism. The Latin word completorium was used by Benedict to indicate the completion of the day incorporate corporate just prior to "The Great Silence" that would soon fall upon the monastic community as monks retired to sleep or the night watch.

For many of us, our daily quiet-time with the Lord comes in the morning, because we understand that once our day begins it is very difficult to put on the breaks until the day is done. After our daily tasks and errands, we eat supper, do the wash, put the kids to bed, feed the dog, try to carve out some time for our spouses, and prepare for the next day often with little energy left to say more than a short prayer, much less recall, reflect, and repent. It can be exhausting, especially when the only thing our tired minds and bodies feel like doing is crashing in front of the television to zone out and unwind before we have to wake up and do it all over again. However, there is an ancient prescription for this problem!


Grab a prayer book with prayers for compline allotted for each day of the week and let the liturgy take you into a brief time of closing prayer before you retire. Even if you don't "feel" it, the short liturgical prayers of the compline will 1) push you onward as your weary mind struggles for sleep, 2) keep your focus anchored Holy things, and 3) cause your spirit to awaken as you bring your heart before the Lord on a tired night. Although historically, compline is done corporately or in small groups, it may be used as an evening prayer liturgy for individuals, couples or families (it can be completed in about 10-15 minutes or less).

Usually compline is organized into a seven day format, one for each day of the week. Yes, they will be repeated throughout the year, but that is ok. The goal for compline is not to feed ourselves with more spiritual knowledge that we have to work to unravel, digest, or to comprehend. The chief aim is to awaken our hearts to commune with the Father as we lay down to rest, not to do mental or devotional gymnastics. “I will bless the LORD, who has given me counsel, Yea, my heart instructeth me in the night seasons.” ~Psalm 16:7
There are numerous prayer books available with compline. Here are just a few: “Common Prayer: A liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” by Shane Claibourne andJonathan Wilson Hartgrove, The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle; Celtic Daily Prayer, Book of Common Prayer. There are also innumerable compline resources online from a variety of streams and traditions of the Christian faith.

Simply put, the compline is the prayer office that wraps up our day in God. It brings closure and reconciliation to the dangling spiritual conflicts that we often leave unresolved. The compline is a way of setting things right in our relationship with God while inviting His peace and protection into our hearts and homes before the “Great Silence” of sleep falls upon us. The compline gives us one last glimpse of the day, one more opportunity to express our adoration, and one final chance to receive the loving kisses from our Lord.

In the Lion, In the Lamb,

Mark Whitten

re-monk challenge: re-monkurself for the next 30 days by committing to doing compline each night before bedtime.

Resources for Compline: The Book of Common Prayer, Celtic Daily Prayer, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  Follow this link for an example of a simple compline service for evening prayer.


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