Christian Mythbusters

Christian Mythbusters

Bedtime Prayers

April 20, 2021

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared breaks some of the myth that you outgrow the need for bedtime prayers. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

In my own family, though I am the priest, it is my wife who has come up with the nighttime prayers we say with my four-year old daughter at the end of the day. I say we, but my daughter almost always demands that Mommy does nighttime prayers with her, because “That’s what Mommy does, Daddy, not you.” It’s always an interesting direction to receive as a priest!

When I was a child, I used to have the worst nightmares. I got into the habit of praying for God to calm my spirit and take the nightmares away. And, believe it or not it actually worked most of the time.   The recurrent nightmares stopped. I still get night terrors from time to time, but prayer generally helps calm me, particularly if I remember to pray before I go to sleep. 

So, this week I’d like to break the myth that you outgrow the need for bedtime prayers. 

Most of us who grew up with bedtime prayers eventually sort of grew out of the practice probably—at least until you have kids of your own and start it all over again with them. But I wonder if all of us would have a lot less stress at nighttime, if we would sleep more easily, if we would even have less stress during the day, by spending some time at the end of every day being present with God. 

In the church, there is a long tradition of set prayers for different times in the day, usually called the Daily Office, Divine Office, or Canonical Hours. Most of us know of them because of the practice of monks reciting these prayer offices throughout the day, but they’re not just for monks. In fact, by placing a structure of the Daily Office in the first Book of Common Prayer in 16th-century England, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was trying to move the practice of daily prayers out of the monastery and put it back in the average Christian household. 

In the Episcopal Church, my favorite of all of the daily offices is the office of Compline, the prayers said at nighttime before going to bed. The title comes from the Latin word completorium, from which we get the English word “complete.” The office of compline is meant to “complete” the day by ending it in prayer. 

The basic structure of compline was established by St. Benedict in the sixth century: three psalms, a hymn, a lesson, a verse and response, the kyrie, and a blessing.” Over time it grew to include the Lord’s Prayer, a Confession, and the great hymn known as the Nunc dimittis. This hymn comes from the words spoken by aged Simeon when the child Jesus was presented in the temple, “Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised; for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: A Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.”

One of my favorite compline prayers in our prayer book is this one, “Keep watch,