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Lord, it is night.

Tekapo Church

it is night.

The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives
rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys,
new possibilities.

In your name we pray.

This prayer in Night Prayer of A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (page 184) is possibly the best-known, best-loved of the “endemic” prayers in that prayer book. This week I was again asked about the history of the prayer, and I saw some incorrect stories circulating.

Rev. John Williamson was the secretary of the Provincial Commission on Prayer Book Revision when it concluded its work in 1987. He has since died. He was a humble, talented priest, serving the commission and the church. The commission had been meeting for its very last meeting to prepare to send the text off for its debate at General Synod. They asked John to lead the final time of prayer together.

He wrote the above prayer and used it at that service. Read the prayer again, and you can hear echoes of how the commission felt after its years of intense work. After the time of prayer one of the commission members said it should go into the Prayer Book. The others agreed, and the prayer had to be retrieved from the waste paper basket where John, humble as ever, had tossed it after leading that office.

You can read more NZ liturgical history here.

image source: Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo, New Zealand.

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15 Responses to Lord, it is night.

  1. It is a beautiful and much loved prayer – and a succinct form of Compline, especially when the Examen feels just a tad too hard at the end of a particularly strenuous and tiring day.
    There are similar prayers from other Traditions, but I think John Williamson’s is the one that ‘hits the mark’ right on.

  2. This one has now travelled the world, I believe. I’ve heard it prayed at Compline in the UK and in Canada. How interesting to learn this tidbit of its history!

    I only wish the drafters had looked at it once more and given it a clearer “voice”. The subjunctives in paragraphs 2, 3, and 6 always sound to me as if they are addressed to the congregation (not to mention the third-person reference to “God” in paragraph 2), instead of the “Lord” of the invocation (presumably Christ, since it’s prayed in his Name).

    Is the Lord really supposed to “let it be”? Or are we meant to read it as a series of separate texts addressed to the people and to God? That would invite some additional typographical or rubrical distinction.

    (This is problem of “voice” is endemic to much contemporary liturgical writing; it throws presiding priests in Eucharistic Prayers; and it plagues amateur DIY intercessions.)

    But it can’t be denied that the prayer’s overall effect really hits a spiritual “sweet spot”!

    • Yes, Jesse. Being the last thing to go in, it never went through any editing. Of course, I can point out things in NZPB which did go through editing and still have some of those problems 🙂 Blessings.

    • I have prayed this lovely prayers my times. I am reminded in the “let it be” of Mary’s words and by extension of the Beatles’ famous song, “there will be an answer, let it be.” What more do we need in order to let go and surrender ourselves to rest and the day to come?

  3. You don’t have to be Episcopalian to love this prayer. I am Catholic and loved it the first time I read it. It sits framed on my desk. So much heart ache relieved by it’s recitation. Oh how we all need this prayer. Thank you for sharing.

  4. So beautiful. I was just sent this prayer by a dear friend whose choir read this at the end of their rehearsal last night.
    I will treasure this healing compline always.

    Healing starts with our personal prayers and reaches out to the universe.

  5. My priest at church read this prayer in Sunday school today. It is beautiful and I will use it for my evening prayer. First time I have heard it. I am in Cypress, TX. USA

  6. A beautiful prayer that my sister sent to me, and I am printing it out that I may look at it in the evening before bed. A big thank you to my sister Barbara.

  7. Tonight on social media, a man I’ve never met posted about his latest bout of depression–a longtime nemesis for both of us. As I struggled for something beyond “Hang in there!” to say, some beloved phrases came to mind: “a new day, new joys, new possibilities.” Being a fussy editor, I wanted to be sure I had the quote right, but I was too weary to get up and find my NZPB. So I typed “Lord, it is night” into Google and landed here. What a treat! Now I will love this prayer even more.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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