Why It’s Important to Pray Before You Sleep

How to empty your brain and fill up your heart before turning out the light

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Posted in , Apr 4, 2022

Prayers before bed

It’s the last thing I do before I go to sleep. Turn off the light, put away whatever I’ve been reading, sit up with my back against the pillows, close my eyes and pray. 

I’ve talked a lot about praying in the morning, how I plop myself on our lumpy sofa in what we call “the TV room” (although there hasn’t been TV in there in years) and sink into silent, contemplative, meditative prayer. Can’t start the day without it.

But at the end of the day, the need is still there. And for some of the same reasons.

People often complain about the distractions that crowd our minds whenever we pray. Do I find my mind full of distractions? Of course, I do. It’s only natural. But I wouldn’t exactly label them as “distractions,” not after I’ve put them into prayer. They’re what I need to share with God. The emails to send, the texts to respond to, the things on the to-do list…articles (like this) to write. Opportunities to get some heavenly perspective.

That list can still be there in my over-active brain at night. And I’m not going to have a good night’s sleep if I fret over it. Time again to do the work of “catch and release.” Catch the thoughts and release them to God. 

No wonder Mom and Dad made sure all four of us kids said our prayers before bed every night, reciting it as fast as we could: Jesus, Tender Shepherd, hear me, bless this little lamb tonight. Through the darkness be down near me, keep me safe till morning light.

It was the last thing we did. Then Mom or Dad would kiss our foreheads. Lights out.

As parents, my wife and I did something similar with our two boys. They got in their p.j.’s, brushed their teeth, jumped into their bunkbeds (in what we still call “the boys’ room”) and we’d sing our prayer altogether: “Tender Shepherd, Tender Shepherd, let me help you count Your sheep, one in the meadow, two in the garden, three in the nursery, fast asleep.” We kissed them goodnight, then lights out.

These days I don’t sing a lullaby before falling asleep, but the need for prayer is still there. To check in with the Good Shepherd before I check out. No song, no hurried verse. Just an emptying of the mind.

My eyes closed, a few thoughts pass through the mind’s eye. A concern someone’s shared, a pestering irritation of my own, something I need to let go of. Now is the time. After all, what is a Tender Shepherd for but to look after His sheep?

A car outside might pass by; I’ll hear someone walking their dog; the radiator rattles. Forget it all. Listen to the wind blow, know how the stars are shining and the moon rising or setting.

God’s got it all in His hands. Lights out.

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