Prayer in the Night

For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep

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Pub Date 26 Jan 2021 | Archive Date 25 Feb 2021

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How can we trust God in the dark? Framed around a 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 that practices of prayer "gave words to my anxiety and grief and allowed me to reencounter the doctrines of the church not as 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.

How can we trust God in the dark? Framed around a nighttime prayer of Compline, Tish Harrison Warren, author of Liturgy of the Ordinary, explores themes of human vulnerability, suffering, and God's...

Advance Praise

"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."

-Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary 

"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."

-Wesley Hill, associate professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and author of Spiritual Friendship 

"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."

-Andrew Peterson, singer/songwriter and author of Adorning the Dark 

"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."

-Jen Pollock Michel, author of Surprised by Paradox 

"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."

-James Bryan Smith, author of The Good and Beautiful God 

"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."

-Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well and Fierce Convictions 

"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."

-James K. A. Smith, Calvin University, author of You Are What You Love 

"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."

-Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making and Strong and Weak 

"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."

-Marlena Graves, author of The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself 

"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."

-Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College

"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...

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Featured Reviews

The reading life has introduced me to resources and spiritual practices I would never have encountered otherwise tucked here into my little corner of evangelicalism on this country hill in Maine. Recently, I’ve been enriched by Tish Harrison Warren’s knowledge of and love for the Book of Common Prayer, specifically the prayer known as “Compline,” part of night time services in liturgical traditions: “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, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen” Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep guides readers through Compline, line by line, acknowledging that night time is often the backdrop for suffering, weeping, or affliction. Warren’s offering is far from a pat answer or one more theological text book on the problem of evil. Written from her own experience of grief and devastating loss, she asks the question: Can we really trust a God who allows bad things to happen to his children? She invites readers to embrace our own vulnerability–which is especially apparent to us in the night-time hours. A combination of spontaneous prayer and historical, inherited, written prayers are helping to frame my own conversational life with God. Sometimes, words come easily, but when they do not, this nighttime prayer offers an outline, reminding me of all the people in my life who need the attention of the tending, blessing, soothing, and shielding God who never sleeps. Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

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I found this book very comforting. I have a lot on my mind that keeps me awake most nights, problems, griefs, challenges, hopeless situations, and so on. I try to pray, but my prayers just wind up being variations of "Please help!" I found these stories and prayers to be comforting and helpful in forming my own words to pray. While I wasn't raised in a liturgical church, I have found great value in much of liturgy and catechism to help me form my thoughts and consistency in worshipping and serving God. This book is a good addition to that. I gratefully received a free ARC from the publisher and author via NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.

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This latest offering from Tish Harrison Warren is a great addition and in one sense a follow on to her previous Liturgy of the Ordinary. this time honing in on prayer - specifically prayer in the night. The subtitle - For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep - is apt and the reader is introduced to the words of the Compline prayer service in the foyer of a time of deep personal tragedy for Warren and how the prayer served as a means of great comfort. I have to confess that although I had known about Compline, I did not know Compline. By the end of the book I came away with such a wonder at the beauty, the richness, and depth of the words of the prayer service. Far from being a 'commentary' on Compline, there is nonetheless an 'unpacking' of the prayer. But more than that it is a great study on prayer itself and also the God to whom we pray. Warren writes in a very compassionate tone which seems to be the perfect fit for the words of the prayer. If you are a Christian who prays Compline, you will probably want to pick this up. If you do not know or pray Compline, you should still look into this - it is a book that will actually edify you and help you as you think through prayer. For anyone it will help you frame your prayer life - to help give you words as you come to the close of the day or if you find yourself awake in the night... and of course you can pray the words whenever too! Prayer in the Night is a helpful addition and complement to Liturgy of the Ordinary and will hopefully help people and be a trellis on which we can train our daily liturgies and prayers. I received a digital copy of this book from the Publisher via NetGalley. I was not obliged to post a positive review of the book.

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Having never read a book by Tish Harrison Warren, I wasn't sure what to think but I was intrigued by the premise: trusting God in the dark times of life. What I found was a book full of inspiration, conviction, and transparency. Through written prayers, quotes, and personal anecdotes, Warren has crafted a wonderful book about the importance of prayer. I just might have to get a copy of this book so I can highlight all the parts I found especially helpful (which was most of it!). Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

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