Prayers for kids, if you must, but not this one

Now I lay me down to sleep

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.

I just saw a trailer for some creepy movie that included the well-known childhood bedtime prayer “Now I Lay Me.”

That’s exactly where that prayer belongs — in a creepy movie.

I remember saying that prayer myself, sometimes even kneeling beside my bed like you see in so many pictures. And obviously I did that because my parents taught and encouraged the practice.

How horrid to make a child recite a prayer about dying in the middle of his sleep, as though that were a likelihood. Why, at bedtime, introduce a concept as frightening as the possibility of never waking up again. And at precisely the time you want the child to relax and go to sleep.

Arguably a lot of those children are too young to understand the meaning of what they are parroting. But why take the chance? Surely someone has come up with a better bedtime prayer for kids than “Now I Lay Me.” Assuming bedtime prayers are still in vogue at all.

I would vote this prayer out of existence as fast as the scary stories like Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf or the Hansel and Gretel nightmare. Why do we scare our children with stuff like this? It can’t disappear fast enough to suit me.

6 thoughts on “Prayers for kids, if you must, but not this one

  1. Ewww, you are right- never thought about just not saying the prayer – it is creepy. Scary to a kid and creepy. I never learned that one as a child thankfully.
    Maybe they got smart and phased it out before you came along.

  2. I sing Shape Note (Sacred Harp) music – the old-time hymns that were and are still sung in this country from the 1700s on. It’s being revived even among us northerners. Anyone, one of the things I’ve noticed is how many of the hymns that are geared for young people are equally horrifying. I put this in perspective by remembering that these hymns were often written in the 1700-1800s when life was hard, disease was prevalent, and 1 in 5 children died before he/she was 5 years old. Death, and early death at that, was a reality then as it still is in many parts of the world. I wonder if children at the time such hymns and the above prayer were as traumatized by them as we are now? I suspect perhaps not as much as we were – maybe it was a comfort to know that the Lord would take care of one’s soul and guide the soul to God’s care and love.
    Looking back, I’m not sure I even thought about what the words meant when I was a kid. It was just one of those little rote memorized things you repeat because someone taught you to. But then, that’s how religion indoctrinates each new generation. As the song says, “you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

  3. The better version of the prayer is…Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the lord my soul to keep, May angels watch me through the night and keep me in their blessed sight.
    Thank you! I hadn’t heard that, and it’s SO much better!

  4. At the end of the day
    I’m grateful to the Lord.

    Should I not see another day,
    the Lord has taken me away.
    Another good alternative. Thanks.

  5. We said a prayer my mom made up, that thanked God for the day, asked for blessings for each person we named and those we forgot to name, and for sweet dreams.

    When praying with our girls, we ask for sweet dreams and a good night’s sleep.


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