The God Squad: Bedtime prayers edited by mom and God

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

I have asked you, dear readers, to share with me the bedtime prayers taught to you by your parents and again you have filled my inbox with joy, piety and love.

Bedtime prayers are deeply important because they keep God in our daily spiritual agenda as children which makes it easy for us to connect to God every day when we become “all growed up”. The best definition of the overused and underappreciated word, “spirituality” I ever heard was “life lived in the presence of God.”

The best known and most common bedtime prayer is, of course, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

When I wrote about that prayer in my previous column I expressed my concerns about the phrase, “If I should die before I wake.” Frankly, it seemed to me to be more than a little terrifying as a bedtime thought for children who might already be afraid of things living under the bed. I was right. Many of you wrote back to me with edited versions of the prayer that left out the if I die line. Here are some of the alternatives,

(From L, and several other readers) -- Mom taught us to say, “May angels watch us through the night, and wake me with the morning light,” which certainly evoked pleasant dreams. It wasn’t until much later that I heard the, “if I should die” part when childhood friends mentioned being scared about dying and not waking up in the morning!

I think that is an improvement, but if you think about it, the phrase “I pray the Lord my soul to keep” is also somewhat ominous. Why must God keep our souls? What happens to us if God does not keep our souls? It is all in the realm of worrying that if we go to sleep we may not wake up. -- MG


The prayer my mother taught my brother and me, after our story time, before bed, was. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. When in the morning light I wake, help me the path of love to take. Amen.” -- (From P)

Why is it that the vast majority of prayers are taught to children by mothers and grandmothers? Fathers can pray too. -- MG

I agree it can be scary. In our family we have always used the modified version: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Guide me safely through the night and wake me with the morning light. Amen." We follow that with 'Give me strength that I may make tomorrow's work my best'. -- (From N in Rocky Point, NY)

C from Wisconsin’s parents made it a funny prayer,


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