Compline: Now I Lay me Down to Sleep (for grown-ups)


I’ve taken to doing Compline devotions before I go to sleep. In the Church tradition of praying the hours of the day, “Compline” is the word used to describe that twilight space at the completion of the day, between evening and morning. Prayers and devotions for Compline are usually meant to be done right before a person (or couple) goes to sleep (perhaps even done in bed–that’s where I do them).

These devotions have helped mitigate that tendency in myself (which I’ve written about before) to try and ignore the voices of both God and contemplation within my heart as I end my day. These beautiful prayers give me a space that forced me speak to and with God and cry for mercy.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions only too well,
and my sin is ever before me.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
have mercy upon me.

It gives me a space to deal with those doubts that my inner-Atheist whispers to me when all else gets quiet.

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment,
and light rises up in darkness for the godly:
Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties,
the grace to ask what you would have us to do,
that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices,
and that in your light we may see light,
and in your straight path may not stumble;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It also offers two more things I especially need: meditation on my day, and meditation on my mortality. Sleep being a picture of death, many of these prayers for Compline focus on death, silence, and the giving up one’s spirit to a Sovereign greater than oneself, with no guarantee of waking–a frightening reality of our sleeping which should shake any of us.

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Alleluia, alleluia.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Alleluia, alleluia.
For you have redeemed me, Lord God of truth.
Alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Alleluia, alleluia.

Keep me as the apple of your eye.
Hide me under the shadow of your wings.

And it gives me peace as I fall to sleep.

In peace we will lie down and sleep;
for you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety.

Abide with us, Lord Jesus,
for the night is at hand and the day is now past.
As the night watch looks for the morning,
so do we look for you, O Christ.
Come with the dawning of the day.

The Lord bless us and watch over us;
the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us;
the Lord look kindly on us and give us peace.

I encourage all of you to find some of your own prayers/devotions to gently send you into slumber. I promise you will be met by God’s Spirit and quieted in your soul.

As far as practicalities go, I use the “Open Prayer Book” Android app [download] while laying bed. This app pulls prayers from many different resources. You can “subscribe” to any prayers you want and even set reminders for the appropriate prayer to pop up at a time of your choosing.

The two sources for prayer I use are the Night Devotions from the ever-popular (and helpful) Mission St. Clare prayer site, and I use the Order for Night Prayer (Compline) from the Church of England’s Common Prayer website.

Now, unfortunately, these are static forms and orders of prayer that don’t change day-to-day; they have the same readings and prayers every day, although the moments of silence where you confess and meditate will surely change for each person each day. I’m sure these will lose their punch and novelty in time and I will need to find others. Prayer is an always growing, ever-evolving thing for the Christian, but for now, these are feeding me and guiding me into God’s presence. I hope they do the same for you.

Have you ever used any outside resources for prayer right before bed? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t?

[image credit: "Death and Life" by Gustav Klimt]

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2 thoughts on “Compline: Now I Lay me Down to Sleep (for grown-ups)

  1. Pingback: Sleep paralysis and weird encounters « Smokebear

  2. Pingback: MUST-READ: “Why I Will Not Divorce the Bible” by Jared Byas | the long way home

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