The Prayer of Compline

In the fixed-hour prayer tradition, which I spoke about last week, the final hour (the fourth) is called compline. Here one prays prayers that are for retiring for an evening to sleep. Last evening “The Reading” (always short) for compline was from Thomas a Kempis. This reading went with me into my dreams (literally) and I arose today still praying it.

We should renew out purpose daily, and should stir up ourselves to fresh enthusiasm, as though this were the first day of our conversion, and we should say, “Help me Lord Jesus, that I may persevere in my good purpose and in Your holy service to my life’s end. Grant that I may now, this very day, perfectly begin, for what I have done in time past is as nothing.”

Compline is designed to be the hour of rest and is thus structured. I found myself dreaming of how I could be stirred up to “fresh enthusiasm” through the evening, or at least in the moments before awaking today. “The first day of our conversion . . . life’s end.” What a sobering and powerful connection of ideas and what a way to end one’s day. I went back to this reading this morning praying the same.

I am asked often, “How do you find vision and strength to face days with a chronic illness?” I have asked God to help me never feel sorry for myself (I fail and confess the sin) and I have asked for “fresh enthusiasm” to live as if this is “the first day of my conversion” until I reach “life’s end.” I dream and I plan, all with an eye intently focused upon the end of life and the approval of my Savior.