Prayer in the Night
How can we trust God in the dark?
Framed around the nighttime prayer of Compline, Tish Harrison Warren, author of Liturgy of the Ordinary, explores themes of human vulnerability, suffering, and God's seeming absence. When she navigated a time of doubt and loss, the prayer was grounding for her. She writes:
"It was this practice that gave me words for my anxiety and grief and allowed me to reencounter doctrines of the church—the church's claims about reality—not as rational, tidy little antidotes for pain but as a light in darkness, as good news."
Where do we find comfort when we lie awake worrying or weeping in the night? This book offers a prayerful and frank approach to the difficulties in our ordinary lives at work, at home, and in a world filled with uncertainty.
"We pray the church's liturgical prayers at night—Compline—because they give us words when we don't know what to say, and they give us better words to say than we might give. This little book is holy glow in your hands: read it, savor it, and most of all join Tish Harrison Warren in prayer in the quiet of the night. Those who pray well are honest, vulnerable, frustrated, hopeful, learning, and most of all they are listeners—all on display in Prayer in the Night. But don't let the beauty of this book captivate you; let its subject capture you into becoming a person of prayer."
"In the tradition of Anglican poet-theologian memoirists like Elisabeth Elliot and Barbara Brown Taylor, Tish Harrison Warren offers a personal exploration of the evergreen problem of theodicy. And like the prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that it unfolds, this lovely book holds out the light of Christ to us at a time when the shadows in our world seem only to grow longer."
"The prayers of the saints have brought me great comfort over the years, not only giving me language to express my deepest fears and best hopes to God but also reminding me that I'm not alone. Tish Harrison Warren has walked through dark valleys, has clung to Jesus by clinging to these prayers, and now offers up a treasure of hard-won wisdom. Reading this book was like sitting with a friend who keeps watch in the night, reminding me of the patient presence of God."
"Prayer in the Night is another radiant example of wisdom formed in the crucible of suffering. As a priest who finds she can't pray, Tish Harrison Warren finds God in our harrowing vulnerability—and stubbornly holds to believing that God remains good even when life is not. This is a book I'll turn to again and again when life is upended. It's a book I will put into the hands of suffering friends. Prayer in the Night is a book that sings, even as it weeps."
"Tish has done it again! Good writers, Frederick Buechner once told me, 'pay attention to their lives.' By this standard, Tish Harrison Warren is a very good writer indeed. She tells stories from her own life—sometimes commonplace, sometimes heartbreaking—with great detail, and even greater insight. Using the brilliant, time-tested words found in Compline, a service of evening prayers used before sleep, as her outline, this well-written and deeply honest book will inspire you to begin using these prayers in your own life. It did for me. Reading this book was like having a meaningful conversation with a friend over a crackling fire and having a clear sense that you are the better for having engaged in it. Tish is far too young to be this wise. I am grateful for her life, for her searching faith, and I am very grateful for this special book."
"I know of few writers today who write as pastorally, prophetically, and poetically as Tish Harrison Warren. I know of few writers of any time who write of the deep, dark stuff of life with as much hope, grace, and beauty as you will find in these pages. Prayer in the Night will bring to the darkness in your life a light that will carry you through the days."
"To be creatures is to face many nights: the darkness of the unknown, the uncertain, the unseen. God, in his grace, does not promise to expel the dark; he promises to be with us in the night. In prose that is both powerful and vulnerable, Tish Harrison Warren invites us to receive Compline as a gift to help us face the dark. Prayer is how we press our hands into the invisible and find the hand of Christ reaching back."
"By the light of an ancient nighttime prayer, this book tenderly and thoroughly explores the beautiful and precarious reality of our shared human life. And it illuminates for us the ultimate Christian question: what it means to love and be loved by a God who made us as vulnerable as we are, and also made himself as vulnerable as we are."
"In Prayer in the Night, Tish Harrison Warren once again ingeniously mines the beauty and wonder of the ordinary, especially in what some might take for granted or neglect: night prayer—Compline for those familiar with the Divine Office. She considers well the implications of God's presence, not only in the midst of our nights, wherever and however we find ourselves, but also amid the dark nights of our souls. Through Compline, we are drawn to pray for and remember others in their nights. As Tish notes, 'Christian discipleship is a lifetime of training in how to pay attention to the right things, to notice God's work in our lives and in the world.' And that is exactly what Tish so expertly does and beckons us to do through this book. It is a beautiful offering."
"This book is the rare combination of beautiful prose and weighty theological reflection. It paints a picture of a faith that is still there on the other side of trite, easy answers that do not satisfy, a picture of hard-won belief. This is not just a book about prayer; at times the book becomes a prayer in its own right. It is, in the end, a reflection on what it means to be a Christian in the midst of losses large and small. I highly recommend it."
Part One: Praying in the Dark
1. Finding Compline: Nightfall
2. Keep Watch, Dear Lord: Pain and Presence
Part Two: The Way of the Vulnerable
3. Those Who Weep: Lament
4. Those Who Watch: Attention
5. Those Who Work: Restoration
Part Three: A Taxonomy of Vulnerability
6. Give Your Angels Charge over Those Who Sleep: Cosmos and Commonplace
7. Tend the Sick, Lord Christ: Embodiment
8. Give Rest to the Weary: Weakness and Silence
9. Bless the Dying: Ashes
10. Soothe the Suffering: Comfort
11. Pity the Afflicted: Relentlessness and Revelation
12. Shield the Joyous: Gratitude and Indifference
Part Four: Culmination
13. And All for Your Love's Sake: Dawn
Discussion Questions and Suggested Practices