Night Prayer

We’ve looked at three components of a daily spiritual plan for peace: a morning offering, time for spiritual reading and meditation and an intentional plan for the day. These were three of the strategies I put into play to bring peace to my home following the traumatic birth of our ninth baby.

I was overwhelmed by all the details of daily life and I didn’t want to lose the peace and clarity that prayer had brought to my time of bedrest before the birth of our baby girl. Now, let’s look at the fourth key. Moms with newborns are notorious for being sleep-deprived and I’m no exception. To the typical newborn waking, I’ve added the nighttime parenting that comes with having teenagers in the house. We truly burn the candle at both ends here.

So, it strikes me a bit funny to write about how to get a good night’s sleep. This component does not guarantee your baby will sleep, nor does it guarantee your teenager will sleep. It does, however, bring peace to the sleep your children allow you to have.

In our house, we like to end the day with family prayer. Often, we are praying a seasonal novena. Patmos publishes a beautiful book called Night Prayerbook: Compline, which pulls the compline from the Liturgy of the Hours, offering a perfect way for families to end their day praying with the universal Church. This is a brief 10- or 15-minute prayer time that isn’t too long for small children.

After the children are off to bed, with their own bedtime prayers said, I do my own examination of conscience. I have some favorite tools for this — books I have gathered over the years that are now out of print and even examens written by friends of mine who are also committed to striving for holiness. I also look at the resolution made during my meditation time. Was I successful in doing what I resolved to do?

This period of self-scrutiny at the end of the day has practical purpose. After looking at both my failures and my successes, I can put the day to rest. I can offer a sincere act of contrition for my sins, beg for help with the things that cause me to struggle and give thanks for the good things in my day. And then, I can literally close the book on the day, grateful for its blessings and hopeful for the one that follows it.

I don’t have much trouble getting to sleep — my days are busy and active and my time of prayer before bed usually brings me peace. Many years ago, I acquired a habit that ensures that I fall asleep in the presence of God. I pray myself to sleep. I’m careful not to make these prayers spontaneous prayers. A spontaneous prayer before sleep more often than not becomes a laundry list of all the things that might cause me anxiety the next day.

For me, it’s better to pray rote prayers before bed. It’s not uncommon to awaken with the rosary in the bed. My favorite prayers before sleep are the rosary — though I rarely can say a whole rosary before nodding off — or a St. Anne’s chaplet. I know that if I fall asleep before I finish the prayers, God smiles at me, pulls up the covers, kisses me goodnight and listens as my guardian angel completes the prayers for the day.

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