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The other night when I was putting my grandbaby to bed, I prayed this prayer that I have prayed thousands of times to my own children throughout the years. In praying it with my granddaughter, I am consciously ‘giving’ her this prayer. But as I was thinking of it, I began to wonder at its origins. Again, I went to my favorite ‘look-up’ sight (Wikipedia) and was not disappointed. Here is what I found:

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Now I lay me down to sleep is a classic children’s bedtime prayerfrom the 18th century.

Lyrics

Perhaps the earliest version was written by Joseph Addison in an essay appearing in The Spectatoron March 8, 1711. It says:

When I lay me down to Sleep,
I recommend my self to his care;
when I awake, I give my self up to his Direction.

A later version printed in The New England Primergoes:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.

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Other versions

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
thy angels watch me through the night,
And keep me safe till morning’s light.[1]

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Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
Bless me Lord my soul to take.[1]

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Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
Angels watch me through the night,
And wake me with the morning light.
Amen[2]

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URL source: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_I_Lay_Me_Down_to_Sleep#_

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I find the variations on this prayer both amusing and disturbing. The New England Primer version is disturbing, and quite typical, of adults intent on scaring the wits out of children to make them obey. I had prayed this one all my life until I had my own children, and began to think about it more critically. Somewhere along the line I found another version that is not on Wikipedia, but I like even better:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
Guard me Jesus through the night,
and wake me with the morning light.

I feel this version is more appropriate for young children than the dark and forbidding one. I do like the angel versions (I had never heard before) and would consider them as optional. If you have a different spin on this prayer, please speak up. Prayer – even prayer offered by children – is an important part of growing up. And I am more often than not aware that God answers the prayers of both the great and the small. So, bring your child up in this simple way, and he/she will not depart from it.

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