Bible in 90 – Day 39: Compline

Safe and sound, I lie down and sleep,
for You alone, O Lord, keep me secure.

Psalm 4:9

©2010 Todd Rossnagel

As a child I used to be terrified of the dark. I would need a nightlight in my room and my sleep would go better if I had access to a flashlight under my pillow. Sometimes the darkness would still overcome me and night terrors would awake me and not let me go back to sleep. I would go to my parent’s room and want comfort, one night after a series of nights of the same fear, the same terrors, my father opened my bible and read Psalm 4 and told me to commit it to my memory. I have recited this psalm countless times since then . . .

While in college I was introduced to the ancient practice of praying the hours. I was hungry and searching for an incarnate way to grow in my relationship with God. I bought a small prayer book at a local Episcopal bookstore that included Morning Prayer, Noon Prayer, Evening Prayer, and a night office called Compline. The practice of praying these “offices” changed my life!

Imagine my surprise when I first opened my little book to the night office of Compline and its main Psalm was Psalm 4. I was reminded of all those nights when I could not sleep and I recited that psalm time and time again until the terrors of the night would leave me.

It turns out that Compline is about giving our lives to God at the end of the day. We have lived the day as a blessing from God and now as we get ready to sleep we give our whole lives, not knowing if tomorrow will come, knowing that no matter what, our lives belong to God.

The rhythm of that Psalm and that office still guides our night ritual at home. Every night we gather with the children and pray the ancient antiphon of Compline: “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.”

Every night we declare that our lives belong to God, every night we put our trust in the one who is the light of the world!


If you want to know more about the office of Compline click here.

If you want to know more about the practice of daily prayer check out the Order of St. Luke.

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