From my childhood, I have had a habit of prayer at bedtime – whether formal or informal. There were nights as a child that I prayed with great fervency in fear of what was taking place around me. There were times as a teenager that I prayed with no confidence that anyone was listening. As an adult and parent, some of my most fervent prayers at such times of day have been for the healing and protection of a child, or for the good death of a friend and fellow pilgrim.
My son, at age four, wrote this simple prayer:
Dear, St. Michael, guard my room!
Don’t let anything eat me or kill me!
Kill it with your sword.
Kill it with your sword.
I still like his prayer. It seemed to have been inspired by a small statue he had in his room at the time. I am particularly struck by the petition, “Don’t let anything eat me.” How innocent!
A couple of years back, I wrote a short post on the children’s bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” offering a longer version with which I have become acquainted. Interestingly, it is the most read article ever posted on this blog, daily ranked in the top ten. Very soon it will surpass 20,000 views (not bad for a single article). It seemed that such a milestone deserved a mention.
The comments have been a place of interest, as visitors to the site have added insights and versions unknown to me. There is even a comment from the descendant of Mother Goose’s sister (that may be the most amazing thing on this entire Blog!).
Bedtime prayers remain a staple in my life. Though today I pray for children (and a grandchild) who are scattered across the U.S. I remember a parent and a still-born child who stretch my prayers before the throne of God. As I child I probably prayed to allay my fears as much as anything (the darkness holds many unknowns for a child). As a man in his mid-50’s, I have more thoughts in the darkness about my sins than about “things that go bump in the night.”
For that reason, I think my favorite prayer at bedtime remains a traditional Orthodox prayer of confession. I would be surprised to see this change:
To the Holy Spirit:
O Lord, the Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth: have compassion and mercy on me, Thy sinful servant! Absolve me, who am unworthy. Forgive all the sins I have committed this day both in my humanity and my inhumanity, behaving worse than beasts in sins voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown, from my youth,from evil suggestions, haste and despondency. If I have sworn by Thy name or blasphemed it in thought; if I have reproached anyone or become angered by something; or slandered or saddened anyone in my anger; or have lied, or slept unnecessarily; or a beggar has come to me and I have despised him; or have saddened my brother or quarreled with him; or have judged someone; or have allowed myself to become haughty, proud or angry; or, when standing in prayer, my mind has been shaken by the wickedness of this world; or have entertained depraved thoughts; or have over-eaten, over-drunk or laughed mindlessly; or have had evil thoughts or seen the beauty of someone and been wounded by it in my heart; or have spoken inappropriately; or have laughed at my brother’s sins when my own transgressions are countless; or have been indifferent to prayer; or have done any other evil that I can not remember – for I have done all this and more: have mercy, O Master, my Creator, on me, Thy despondent and unworthy servant! Absolve, remit and forgive me, in Thy goodness and love for mankind that I, who am prodigal, sinful and wretched, may lie down in peace and find sleep and rest. May I worship, hymn and praise Thy most honorable name, with the Father and His only-begotten Son, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.