For years, figuring out a daily prayer practice for my family was something that I wanted to do, but I kept on stalling. Bedtime was already so long, and so often we were getting our children into bed later than I wanted to: did I really want to add a routine with candle-lighting, prayers, and so on?
Then, as my children transitioned from toddler to school-age, I worried that they might reject whatever I would come up with, just because. As double Priest’s Kids, (my husband is also an Episcopal priest), they already get a lot of religion anyway.
But still it nagged at me. I wanted a time at the end of the day that we could all come together, be aware that we are in the presence of God, and pray.
Finally I gathered up my courage to try something new. During Advent, I was encouraging members of my parish to pray the office of Compline. I figured that, what with the recent unsettling that followed the election, and the fact of Advent being a time for intentionally quieting ourselves and preparing ourselves to welcome Christ again, we could all use a little more intentional prayer. Compline is a beautiful service from the Book of Common Prayer, and while it can be made elaborate, it is very simple at its heart.
I created a handout that took the service of Compline and included a few sidebars with information about how to pray the service alone (it feels strange to say “The Lord be with you. And also with you.” when you are by yourself, but it’s okay). I taught a short class to a few people who showed up after church, and I distributed my Compline handouts to every group that met in the evening in the church, to use at the end of their time together. I left extra handouts out for people to pick up, and I announced in church that they were available.
Then, I took a deep breath, and brought five of them home with me.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easily my boys accepted the addition of Compline to our bedtime routine. With everyone ready for bed, we read a story as usual, and then put the story aside and gave a Compline handout to everyone who wanted one (two of my children are readers, the third not yet).
Our first night, I took the role of Officiant. Our second night, my husband was the Officiant. I assumed that we would trade off like that, but in a few days, our oldest son (11) asked if he could officiate! Brothers being what they are, the next night our middle son (9) asked to officiate.
Since then, our choice of officiant rotates around among all the readers of our family, depending on who volunteers and who has done it more recently. Our youngest usually sits curled up on my lap, and he has memorized all the words–even the psalms! In fact, after the officiating competition, the older two then competed in memorizing as well, and now they both refuse to take the handout unless they are officiating.
I love sharing prayer time with my family right before bed. I love that they are gradually becoming steeped in the beautiful language of the psalms and prayers of Compline. And the thing I love most is that they often take the opportunity in Compline to offer their own prayers or thanksgivings. They pray for people they know who are sick, or give thanks for their day. Our youngest often prays for the homeless or for the poor.
They are each developing their own spiritual life and relationship with God, and my prayer is that it will help support them throughout their lives.
Can you imagine beginning prayer at home with Compline?