So many beautiful bedtime prayers are piling up in my inbox. Thank you, dear readers.
Here is a sweet prayer from C that does not touch the problem of frightening kids with the phrase, “And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
“I see the moon.
The moon sees me.
God Bless the moon
And God Bless me.”
Another tactic in blunting the death prayer seems to be to balance it with prayers for loved ones. To those who do not yet believe that bedtime prayers are a fundamental building block of faith and a pure way to bond families, read this lovely memory from L in Morehead City, NC.
“Dear Rabbi Gellman, You reminded me of an experience with our youngest grandchild, Isabel. She was about five years old. (She is now 17.) Her parents had left her with us for a week. It was one of the first times she had stayed without her parents or cousins. She had gotten ready for bed, with a bath and a story and I had turned off the light and left the room. I checked on her a few minutes later and I could hear her crying. I went in and sat on the bed and asked if she was missing her Mom and Dad and puppy. She said she didn’t think she could sleep and I said, “Oh, I know why you can’t sleep, we forgot to say our Good Night Prayer. I remembered that we always said this prayer with our children. “Now I lay me Down to Sleep prayer.” So I said, “Let’s get down on our knees and say this prayer with me.” Then I began the traditional prayer, “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, BUT at that point in our house we always added, God Bless everyone and we named people that we specially loved. So Isabel asked God to bless her Mommy, her Daddy, her puppy, Puddin, her friends that she listed by name. At the end we asked that God help her to be a good girl. We said, “Amen.”
I left her and she went to sleep. We did this for the next two evenings, no problem. Three nights later, however, we took her to an amusement park in the evening. When we returned, it was late and we were all very tired and went straight to bed. No prayers. At 2 a.m. Isabel walked into my room and said, “Lala, we forgot to say the prayer.” So, sheepishly, I walked with her to her bedroom and she said in a very tired voice, ”Do we need to get on our knees?” I said, “No, when it is this late, we can just say our prayers in bed, and we did. Thank you for an excuse to write this memory."
What struck me was that all of these bedtime prayers were for children and this is both understandable and regrettable. The best time to teach children God’s tender love and compassion is when they are filled with nighttime fears and would most appreciate a touch of nighttime hope and love. However, grown-ups also have fears and needs, and I am now searching for adult bedtime prayers that tenderly nudge you into the land of nod. I thank, N, for sending along a terrific bedtime prayer for adults that I joyfully share with you now. It was written by one of my favorite theologians. – MG
“May God support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.”
– Saint John Henry Newman, 19th century theologian
What this prayer conveys with such simple eloquence is that we cannot live in a world where nothing rests. We need time to process our day and remind ourselves of its blessings. Sleep is not just a physical need. Sleep is our thankfulness for night. – MG
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)
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