Keep watch, dear Lord,
with those who work, or watch, or weep this night;
and give Your Angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, give rest to the weary.
Sustain the dying, calm the suffering,
and pity the distressed;
all for Your love’s sake, O Christ our Redeemer.
– Book of Common Prayer
Author Tish Warren uses the nighttime prayer from the Service of Compline to walk through the dark times we all experience. Her own dark year included two miscarriages, a move to a new city, and the unexpected death of her father. In a time of grief and vulnerability, repeating this prayer was a comfort and a source of strength. Although some people scoff at liturgical prayers (other peoples’ prayers) and consider them less authentic, Ms. Warren makes a case for using them. She says:
“During that difficult year, I didn’t know how to hold to both God and the awful reality of human vulnerability. What I found was the prayers and practices of the church that allowed me to hold to –or rather to be held by–God when little else seemed sturdy, to hold to the Christian story even when I found no satisfying answers.”
Each chapter is centered around one section of the prayer– for example, “Keep Watch, ” “Those Who Weep,” “Bless the Dying.” This leads to an examination of the theological struggle we often face, how can God be all-powerful even as horrible things happen to us and to the world?” This “problem of pain” is called theodicy, and it often leads to a true crisis of faith.
There is no pat answer. God does not always rescue us. In the end, Tish Warren quotes this statement from Tim Keller:
“If you ask …. Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?… and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, we know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us.”
There are discussion questions and some suggested practices at the end. This could easily be used for journaling, or as a small group resource.
You can read more about Tish Harrison Warren and find a number of versions of the Compline service at tishharrisonwarren.com.
VERDICT: 5 STARS. I’m a liturgical person, so it really resonated with me.
For more about grief see these posts:
The Gravity of Joy by Angela Williams Gorrell–Book Review
The Night Lake by Liz Tichenor–Book Review
For more about the liturgy see:
Liturgy as Prayer
Learning from the Liturgy