Now I lay me down to sleep…

South Africa 2012 049

For years I’ve been using the prayer printed below at graveside services, and so for years I thought it was a prayer about death.

And then this week I was at a clergy prayer retreat – sounds terribly exciting, I know – and our leader used the prayer to close our time of evening prayer or compline.  I suddenly realized that the prayer could be about another kind of letting go or, as he put it,” relinquishing.”

Every time we go to bed, we are giving in to a “holy rest.”

Here it is.  Enjoy.  It’s from the Book of Common Prayer (1928).

O LORD, support us all the day long,

until the shadows lengthen

and the evening comes,

and the busy world is hushed,

and the fever of life is over,

and our work is done.

Then in thy mercy

grant us a safe lodging,

and a holy rest,

and peace at the last. Amen.

(Photo credit:  Well, mostly God deserves the credit, but I snapped the picture near Cape Town, South Africa, in November 2012.)


About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


5 Responses to Now I lay me down to sleep…

  1. Laurie Fuller April 25, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    “Jesus tender shepherd hear me, bless my little lamb tonight. Through the darkness be thou near me. Watch my rest till morning light.”

    I had no idea till later that it was a hymn, but I taught my granddaughter how to say her prayers before going to bed. It’s a good feeling passing down to generations your prayers.

    I know this has nothing to do with prayers for the grave, but felt it necessary to tell you.

    Thanks Doug as always for the blogs, it makes my week!


    • Doug April 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

      A beautiful prayer!

  2. Judy Ackerman April 25, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I had never heard that prayer before.

    When I was a little girl, I was taught to pray…
    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my soul will keep.
    If I should die before I wake
    I pray the Lord my soul will take.

    Kind of frightening for a little child!! They have changed the wording to.

    watch over me all through the night
    and wake me with the morning light.

    Much better, don’t you think?
    Which one did you pray when you were a child?

    • Doug April 25, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      I learned that prayer too, Judy, and fortunately was oblivious to the meaning. My mom and dad were standing there, so what was there to be afraid of? I didn’t think about it.

  3. Bruce chapman April 25, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray The Lord my soul to keep.

    Bless Mommy & Daddy, brothers Eric, Dennis & Doug, with sister Mary Beth
    And make me a sweet boy.

    That’s the version I practiced as a child & repeat oftentimes now with various other modern names mentioned too

    The graveside prayer Doug recites echoes my own theological sentiments & was a stock in trade during my previous, congregational ministry leadership days. Guess Doug & my interests extend further more still: the prayer is a great expression of the faith, indeed.