Compline, that is night or bedtime prayer, is one of the traditional Hours of prayer that I try to pray every day, but I like to switch between different resources including Anglican, Catholic and the specifically Celtic prayer from the Northumbria community amongst others.
I also frequently use prayers from the Jewish Siddur including a lovely short bedtime prayer for children from a British Reformed Jewish prayer book.
The Jewish bedtime liturgy is built around the Shema, Judaism’s central prayer.
The following is a collection of traditional Jewish night prayers and blessings. The psalms 3 and 91 are also traditionally prayed at bedtime.
Jewish Bedtime Prayer
Blessed are You, [oh LORD], our God, Ruler of the universe, who closes my eyes in sleep, my eyelids in slumber.
May it be Your will, [oh LORD], My God and the God of my ancestors, to lie me down in peace and then to raise me up in peace.
Let no disturbing thoughts upset me, no evil dreams nor troubling fantasies.
May my bed be complete and whole in Your sight.
Grant me light so that I do not sleep the sleep of death, for it is You who illumines and enlightens me.
Blessed are You, [oh LORD], whose majesty gives light to the universe.
Hear, O Israel, [the LORD], our God, [the LORD], is One.
Blessed be the Name of His Glorious Majesty forever and ever.
You shall love [the LORD] your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you are sitting at home and when you go on a journey, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The Hashkivenu Prayer
Lie us down, [oh LORD] our God, in peace; and raise us up again, our Ruler, in life.
Spread over us Your Sukkah of shalom, direct us with Your good counsel, and save us for Your own Name’s sake.
Shield us; remove from us every enemy, pestilence, sword, famine, and sorrow.
Remove all adversaries from before us and from behind us, and shelter us in the shadow of Your wings.
For You are our guarding and saving God, yes, a gracious and compassionate God and King.
Guard our going out and our coming in for life and peace, now and always!
Prayer for Protection at Night
In the name of [the LORD] the God of Israel:
May the angel Michael be at my right,
and the angel Gabriel be at my left;
and in front of me the angel Uriel,
and behind me the angel Raphael…
and above my head the Shekhinah.
Amen v Amen, l’olam v’ed
(Amen and Amen, world without end)
- A Note on the Name
Where, in English translations, you see the word Lord in capital letters thus: LORD, it is usually referring to the personal name of God written YHVH (Yodh, hey, vav, hey in Hebrew) and traditionally translated specifically as Jehovah.
The pronounciation Jehovah is now realised to be quite wrong, firstly because the letter ‘J’ is a recent – linguistically speaking – mutation of the ‘Y’ sound (as in the name Jesus, which in most languages retains the original Hebrew ‘Y’ sound from the name Yeshua – elsewhere translated into English as Joshua). The ‘vav’ or ‘v’ sound can also have the ‘w’ sound, and so the version ‘Yahweh’ is now commonly used.*
An additional confusion around the pronounciation is that the Masoretes, who added pronunciation marks to the text, may have substituted the vowel marks for ‘Adonai’ wherever they saw the name YHVH in the text.
The Name has traditionally been purposely covered to avoid taking the Name in vain, and so in Jewish synagogues the word ‘Adonai’ (Lord) is used. Outside the synagogue, even the word ‘Adonai’ is considered too holy to use and so the word ‘HaShem’ (The Name) is spoken instead. Most observant Orthodox Jews will even extend this to the English words God and Lord, omitting the vowel ‘o’, writing the words as ‘G-d’ and ‘L-rd’.
The English translators mostly followed the Jewish tradition, translating the Name as ‘LORD’ except in certain specific places where an actual name was obviously required.
* My personal pronunciation preference for the Name is ‘Yahoveh’, but I do appreciate the reason why the Name was hidden in the way it was and I do think it shouldn’t be carelessly thrown about, and so I use the word ‘LORD’ more frequently.
I have followed the English translators’ custom here, with the word [LORD] in brackets. Please feel free to substitute whichever version of the Name that you feel most comfortable with.