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Posted: Jan 11, 2020

Jumping into the Daily Office with Compline

When we think of the prayer book one of the first things that might come to mind is the church services between its covers. But did you know that the prayer book has much to offer us when we are at home too? One of the big things we can do with the prayer book while at home is praying through what’s called “the Daily Office.” The Daily Office is a set of four prayer services that mark the major times of day (morning, noon, evening, and day’s end), each with their own flair to them. 

If you have never prayed the Daily Office before then the easiest place to jump in is probably the last of these four services, Compline. Compline is basically bedtime prayer, and so Compline can be a great habit to take up with your kids as you all bring the day to a close. Setting habits for daily prayer is always a good thing for children, but Compline brings some specific benefits which the Rev. Jeff Jackson (Rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Carrollton, GA) has observed praying it with his children:

1. Compline helps children become leaders and readers
When we started, our oldest was 8 and the next oldest 6, who had finished her first year of reading in school. The first time we did it, I lead it and I asked them to follow along so they could take a turn the next night. This gave them the confidence to know that Compline can be led by anyone. The more they led, the more they loved it. Especially with the 6-year-old, it built her confidence in reading out loud for others. Plus, it was fun for me as a priest, to show them the rhythms of the liturgy, when we pause, when to leave silence, and how to choose options in the liturgy. They also learn to sit still when they hold a book in their laps.

2. Compline teaches us new words
When you read prayers and Scriptures first written and prayed thousands of years ago, you’re bound to come across a word that you don’t recognize. My kids now know words like “countenance,” “crag,” “pestilence,” “heavy-laden,” “adversary,” “celestial brightness,” and “changelessness.”

3. Compline makes you sleepy
This might be true of many liturgies, but we quickly noticed that the two younger boys stopped flopping around during prayers like dead fish. Instead, they would snuggle up closer so they could listen. By the end of Compline, they were both half-asleep and needed to be carried to bed. Compline in tone is akin to a lullaby.

4. Compline reinforces prayers we already know
Even during our “Thank you, God” prayers, we closed with the Lord’s Prayer. Compline includes this, so even when we started, the kids were not completely in the dark.

5. Compline teaches multiple types of prayer
We had been stuck in “Dear God, thank you for…” for so long, we forgot there were other types of prayer. Compline includes a short confession, which is a great way to remind children that they are forgiven no matter what mistakes they have made. There are prayers of praise, thanksgiving, intercession, and petition in Compline, which makes our prayers much more well-rounded, so that we are not only asking God for personal stuff and thanking God for Scooby-Doo and cupcakes for dessert.

6. Compline bathes us in Scripture
As with most of the Book of Common Prayer, many of the prayers come directly from Scripture. But Compline also includes 4 Psalms of various lengths (strangely enough, my kids choose the longest one, 91, more than any of them), 4 brief readings from other parts of the Bible, and even the Song of Simeon, which we find in Luke chapter 2. These kids are hearing and reading the Bible. It’s washing over them, they are soaking up the words, and when they have a question, we talk about it.

If you want to give Compline a try in your household you can find it starting on p. 127 of any print copy of the Book of Common Prayer or through the online BCP by following this link.

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