The God Squad: A God Squad discovery … the bedtime prayer

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

One of the unanticipated purposes of this column over the past several decades has been to point out with love and pride ways that our belief in God and God’s love for us sneaks into our world in unappreciated and often unacknowledged ways.

Recently, our discovery of God winks has awakened us to the often spooky discovery of ways that our loved ones have invented to contact us from the other side and thus remind us that death is not the end of us and that we will not be separated forever from those we love.

Our most recent discovery in the land of unexamined spirituality is the tender collection we have assembled of bedtime prayers. We began with the fearful undertone of the most famous “Now I lay me down to sleep…” with its scary warning, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” From there we encountered several comforting modifications and we discovered that praying to God before falling asleep is not just a childhood habit. Many of us make sure that the rhythms of our life include at least one daily moment when we explicitly and expressly let God in. Thank you, dear readers, for being the willing source for our discovery of God in our world and in our lives. The mission of the God Squad lives in you.

Here are some more touching twilight theophanies…

Q: I do so enjoy your weekly column and have been meaning to send another nighttime prayer my great-aunt taught me and I relayed it to my children and grandchildren:

There are four corners on my bed,

There are four angels overhead

Matthew, Mark Luke and John

God bless the bed that I lay on.

Amen -- (From P)

Q: Have been following the issue in the newspaper about a good bedtime prayer. I don't like the version with "death" in it at all, nor did my wife. I am not sure where we learned the version we use, but it goes: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Be with me through this night I pray, and also through the coming day." Seems a lot calmer and reassuring than the version with death in it. I just wondered why I haven't seen this version in the paper? Maybe I missed it. -- (From T)

Q: I found this prayer several years ago and love it. While it's meant for children, it's great for adults like me with short attention spans.

Bedtime Shema for Young Children

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

Praised is the Lord by day and praised by night,

praised when we lie down and praised when we rise up.

I place my spirit in His care, when I wake as when I sleep.

God is with me, I shall not fear, body and spirit in His keep.

Amen -- (From B)

Q: The prayer I said with my children before they went to sleep is:

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

Thy love stay with me through the night

And wake me with the morning light.

Then we followed it with : God bless Mommy, Daddy, etc.

Amen -- (From P and many others)


Q: This is one of several I say when my head hits the pillow.

“God watches over me, over my house, over all my loved ones.

In His peace I have peace.”

Amen -- (From V)

Q: I, too, wondered why children would recite a prayer regarding death.

My Mom taught us the following prayer, which appears appropriate for all ages.

I have no idea where she found it, but I can say that while raised a Midwest Christian Scientist, both she and her sister went to a Lutheran nursing school in New York City.

Father we thank thee for the night

And for the pleasant morning light,

For rest, and food, and loving care,

And all that makes the world so fair.

Help us to do the things we should,

To be to others kind and good,

In all we do in work and play

To serve thee better day by day.

Amen. -- (From S)

Q: Bless, oh Lord, the repose we are about to take

That our bodily strength being renewed

We may be the better enabled to serve Thee.

(She lived to be almost 98 years old). -- (From S)

Q: Dear God, hear my prayer. Have mercy on me and all humankind for we have erred in our ways. Forgive us all for our errors through Jesus Christ. Help me to forgive others for their unintentional and intentional errors against me. I want it to all be forgiven. Help me and others around the globe far and near with our journey of faith.

Amen. -- (From N)

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at 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.)

©2023 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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