Now I lay me down to sleep
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray, dear Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray, dear Lord, my soul to take. Amen.”
Thomas C. Schneider
My parents taught me this bedtime prayer when I was a small child. I have prayed it regularly my entire life. I must confess that often the words of this prayer roll off my lips without me really thinking about the meaning and beauty of this prayer. All too often I want to bring other prayers and requests to God that seem more important. However, a recent event in my life has brought me a better understanding and appreciation of this simple prayer.
It began shortly after Christmas. “Now I lay me down to sleep. . . .” I thought about Christmas and prayed, “Lord, thank you for blessing me as I enjoyed spending Christmas with my family. However, Lord, I have noticed that I have not been feeling right. I have never been this tired while going for a walk or climbing a flight of stairs. Am I just getting old? Please guide me to what I should do.”
My prayer continued days later. “Now I lay me down to sleep. . . . Thank you, Lord, for encouraging me to call my cardiologist and make an appointment. I feel better now. Thank you also for reminding me to tell my wife. I think she has noticed that something is wrong. Now, Lord, keep me at peace and well rested for the next week until I have my appointment.”
But before the appointment came, I prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep. . . . Lord, something is not right. I began having pain in my chest a few minutes ago. I am going to get up and take an aspirin. Please, Lord, make the pain go away.” The pain did not go away. One hour later I asked my wife to drive me to the hospital.
After two hours of tests and observations, the doctor said, “You did not have a heart attack, but there seems to be a problem with your heart. We are going to admit you, and I am scheduling you for an angiogram this afternoon.”
How can one lie quietly waiting in the hospital? I prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray, dear Lord, my soul to keep. . . . Lord, it has been a long night, but I am ready for some sleep. Thank you for taking care of me. Give me peace and some rest and prepare me for whatever lies ahead in the next few hours because this is all beginning to sound scary. My times are in your hands!”
Shortly before the angiogram I met the doctor who would do the procedure. He said, “If we find any blockages we will see if they can be removed. It they can, you will be able to go home tomorrow and back to work on Monday. If not, you will be a candidate for bypass surgery.”
So I waited again and prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray, dear Lord, my soul to keep. . . . Lord, bless the doctors and nurses who are doing this procedure with knowledge and skill. Grant success to their work so that I can go home soon.”
I was wheeled away for my angiogram. When I woke up, I learned that I had three blockages that could not be opened. At 5:30 p.m., the surgeon came into my room and informed me that I was being scheduled to have heart bypass surgery at noon the next day. I transitioned from someone who was recovering from an angiogram to someone who was being prepped for bypass surgery.
It had been a long day, and it was filled with uncertainty that did not go away. By 10 p.m., I was exhausted. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray, dear Lord, my soul to keep. . . . Lord, thank you for watching over me today. Things are happening pretty fast. Give me a good night’s sleep and the courage to face tomorrow knowing you will be with me.”
The next morning the gurney arrived to take me to the operating room for surgery. In a small, crowded room several people began prepping me. They stopped long enough for me to kiss my wife and tell her that I loved her. Then they continued in earnest. I did too: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray, dear Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray, dear Lord, my soul to take. . . . Lord, if I should die . . . I don’t want to die. Not my will but your will be done. Amen.” It had not dawned on me until this minute that I could have died before I arrived at the hospital. I could have died during the angiogram. I could die today. Yet I was comforted by this prayer, and anesthesia brought sleep to me quickly.
When I woke up, tubes were connected to numerous parts of my body. A nurse informed me that the surgery was successful and everything was looking good. Then she added, “Try to get some rest.”
“Now I lay me down to sleep. . . . Lord, thank you for being with me. ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?’ Lord, I do not know why, but that is the only Bible passage I can remember. Thank you for being my light and my salvation. Amen.” It was a strange sensation to want to praise and thank God for everything but not be able to find the thoughts or words besides one Bible passage to do so.
In the days after the surgery, my recovery progressed in every way but one. I could not sleep well. Numerous times a day I found myself praying, “Now I lay me down to sleep. . . . Lord, thank you for easing my pain and discomfort. Please grant me several hours of sleep.” Even though sleep did not always come, more and more Bible verses came back to me, which gave me peace and rest.
Now that time has passed, I am sleeping better, getting stronger, and my life seems to be returning to normal.
Whenever I think back to everything that happened, I am in awe of the fact that the Lord, who could have taken my soul to heaven, has chosen to keep my soul here for a while longer. How much longer? According to my cardiologist, my heart is good for many years to come. Still, every night I put my head on my pillow and humbly and confidently pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray, dear Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray, dear Lord, my soul to take. Amen.”
Thomas Schneider, campus pastor at Michigan Lutheran High School, Saint Joseph, Michigan, is a member at St. Paul, Stevensville, Michigan.
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Author: Thomas C. Schneider
Volume 102, Number 6
Issue: June 2015
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