by Marilyn Ehle
“ In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.”
Psalm 4:8 (Amplified Bible)
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.
This 18th century children’s bedtime prayer has received negative reaction in recent years, and I admit that its words might not inspire pre-sleep tranquility in small children. Before the advent of advanced medical understanding, many people feared sleep. People would awaken their children during the night to check their breathing or even—in some cultures—to prevent what they thought might be evil gods who wanted to steal their children. The ancient Greeks had a saying: “Sleep and death are brothers.”
But maybe we adults should re-think the value of the bedtime prayer. William Law writes that, in his opinion, Christians should face the nighttime hours of sleep as though some time during their duration we might indeed die. Instead of falling asleep with a morbid fear that death might overtake us during those night hours, perhaps we should quietly give God thanks for His gift of life and then give Him permission to take us into His presence during our time of sleep if that is part of His plan.
As much as we delight in opening our eyes to beautiful sunrises, the faces of friends and family or the anticipated joys of a new day, how much greater would be our bliss if our first glimpse would be of the Savior?
We confidently affirm that the loving Lord who promises to “keep” our souls can be trusted to “take” those same souls. In His time and by His love.
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