When Jonah was sick, our family began praying together every evening using the Compline service from the Book of Common Prayer. We had used this order of prayer from time to time since beginning our journey toward the Anglican church several years ago, but this was different. We were committing to the discipline of praying Compline every day, regardless of our schedules. Now the kids know that it is not bedtime until we’ve brought out the prayer books and offered up the words of this service together.
Compline is a simple, beautiful service. At first, as we were beginning this discipline, it felt long and awkward as we referred to the tags of who was supposed to speak and when, but soon we developed a rhythm and were able to focus on the strength of the liturgy.
There is power in the unity of speaking words of prayer together – words that have been passed through the years. There is peacefulness in taking the words of a bedtime prayer and lifting them in song as a family. There is grace and conviction in listening to the free intercessions of our children as they offer their honest, heartfelt desires and needs before the Lord while mimicking the style of the ancient prayers and those they hear spoken by Scott and me.
Before we began using the Book of Common Prayer, before we began attending the Anglican church, I mistakenly believed that common prayer could be nothing more than rote, mechanical, impersonal. And I assumed that those who prayed common prayers must not know how to pray free, individual prayers.
Now, I have experienced the richness of adding my voice to prayers that have touched the hearts and lives of uncountable Christians through the life of the Church and I understand that my individual prayers are not lessened by my use of the Book of Common Prayer. Rather, much as my children have improved their writing and speaking through copywork and memorization, my free prayers have strengthened and deepened from daily practice of praying scripture and time-honored prayers.
If you would like to use Compline for your own prayers, an online version can be found here: BCP Online (Choose “The Daily Office” from the table of contents. Then select “Compline.”)