A long tradition of the Christian faith is making prayer the final act before retiring to bed. This practice goes back to the third century in the writings of Clement of Alexandria and St. Cyprian. The practice was formalized in the nightly office of Compline by St. Benedict in the sixth century. Compline was a way for Christians to gather to offer common prayers, psalms and a benediction before departing in silence to retire to bed.
Recently I evaluated how poorly I closed my day—falling asleep to ESPN or late-night talk shows rather than intentionally closing my day with this long-held Christian tradition. I need the reflection, the historic words and the peace that accompany prayer as I close my days. Instead I’ve settled for trivia, jokes and poking fun at celebrities and politicians.
I determined to change my course and return to practicing a form of prayer that helps me declare a benediction at the close of each day. A benediction (Latin for “speaking well of”) is a form of prayer and blessing that acknowledges our God for the many ways we have witnessed our Maker and Molder’s fingerprints in our midst (James 1:17). A ritual I try to practice these days looks like this:
- Review my day, answering, Where did I see the fingerprints of God today?
- Prayer of Thanksgiving.
- The nunc dimittis (Luke 2:29-32)
*A Sample Benediction:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.
How are you closing your days, these days?
[Photo credit: jakebouma]