The average person, if he is getting the sleep he really needs, sleeps away about one third of his total life. ONE THIRD! To sustain that one third of our lives we spend a small fortune on all kinds of special mattresses, sleep aids, fancy pillows and even sleeping pills.
With all that time, effort and money involved, how much time do we pray about sleeping? Yes, pray about sleeping. We pray for strength for our days, blessings on our work, safety in our leisure, health for our life, but what about praying for sleep?
One of the earliest prayers we teach our children is “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Watch me safe throughout the night, and wake me with the morning light. Amen.” That is a great prayer, but after we get to be about age ten or so we believe we have outgrown it.
The psalmist David along with great church leaders like St. Ambrose and Martin Luther would disagree. David said in Psalm 4, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only make me to dwell in safety.” Now that is one confident bedtime prayer.
In Luther’s shorter catechism he teaches a simple bedtime prayer for children and adults. His prayer reads, “I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
Luther gives an afterword to this prayer. “Then go to sleep at once in good cheer.”
Ambrose was also concerned with a good night’s sleep. He put his prayer into a song for the whole church to sing and find comfort. For a bedtime song it has a rather odd name, “O Christ, Who Art the Light and Day”. Still its words of trust in God’s care and appeal for peace in the night are probably better than all the sleeping pills and comfort mattresses we rely on for a truly blessed night of rest.
All holy Lord, we pray to Thee, keep us tonight from danger free; grant us, dear Lord, in Thee to rest, so be our sleep in quiet blest.
Let not the tempter round us creep with thoughts of evil while we sleep, nor with his wiles the flesh allure and make us in Thy sight impure.
And while the eyes soft slumber take, still be the heart to Thee awake, be Thy right hand upheld above Thy servants resting in Thy love.