A Reassuring Bedtime Prayer

That's what's special about a prayer from childhood: It’s always there inside you, ready to be called to your lips when you need it.

Posted in , Sep 14, 2016

Illustration of two young children hands folded in prayer kneeling at their bed

Did you have a prayer you said as a kid when you went to bed? It’s been years but recently I recalled the one my parents taught me:

“Jesus, tender shepherd, hear me, bless this little lamb tonight, through the darkness be down near me, keep me safe till morning light.”

Although if you had heard my brother and me say it out loud as kids, we went so fast all those words were scrambled together: jesustendershepherdhearmeblessthislittlelambtonight…like some race we were on and whoever finished first won.

When I look at it now, it strikes me as remarkably sophisticated in its simplicity. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep.”

Did I think of all that when I was four or five years old? Not a chance. But I must have remembered a picture we saw in Sunday school of Jesus holding a lamb in his arms. Like the one of Jesus calling all the kids to Him.

“That’s me,” I thought, and I still do. There are times – plenty of them – when I just need to be held, through darkness, danger, my own dim-wittedness, incipient disaster, the silly demands of my ego.

I like how the prayer brings the Good Shepherd down to me, not like vision of God in my head of the Big Guy in the sky with a beard – not unlike Michelangelo’s God on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling.

This is the prayer we taught our little lambs when they were young. No telling whether our 20-something boys still say it. But then that’s what’s precious about a prayer you were taught as a child. It’s always there inside you, ready to be called to your lips when you need it.

In fact, I might just trot out this prayer tonight when I crawl into bed. Little lambs come in all shapes and sizes. As does darkness.  The Good Shepherd is always there.

You have a bedtime prayer?  Still say it? Maybe it’s time to call on it again. Think you forgot it? I’ll bet you didn’t. Shut out the light, put away the book or the hand-held screen, close your eyes. Let the comforting words come.

Bless you, bless all of us.  Godspeed. 

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