In preparation for the birth of their baby, my daughter-in-law, Pam, asked me to make an image to hang in our new grandchild’s bedroom. She wanted the prayer Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep with a moon. After reading the prayer, Pam emailed to me I was happy it wasn’t the version I learned in my childhood:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
I discovered that variation came to the American Colonies via the New England-Primer, first published in the late 1600’s. For seventeenth century New Englanders, who had no knowledge of antibiotics, bacteria, or even simple hand washing, losing a child was a very real possibility. Parents were entrenched in the fear of hellfire and damnation so an invocation of protection for their children must have seemed like the prudent thing to do.
For me, being born in the 1950’s, the likelihood of not seeing a child reach adulthood was no longer a major threat. Yet many of us were still taught a prayer with instructions for God to take our souls in case we didn’t wake up in the morning. I never thought how menacing that prayer was until Pam sent over the newer version.
Today I’m happy to say many of us no longer have room in our lives for a harsh, punishing God. We believe our children and grandchildren are made in Love and will come into a world surrounded by a Love that never sleeps. It is good to evolve.
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Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com
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I’ve actually never seen/heard the new version of that prayer. Love it! Thanks for sharing. And I love the photo of Cam offering his sucker to the baby in his mommy’s belly. He’ll be a great big brother!
Thanks, Amie. Cam is adorable in every sense of the word. xo
Had to giggle reading this. A well-meaning aunt who must have skipped childhood altogether taught me the original version of that prayer. Imagine the terror within me as I recited it. Never said it more than a couple of times when I was little. But yes, Pam’s version is so gentle and full of light. It won’t cast extra shadows on the walls at night!
You are such a beautiful writer. As always, thanks for your feedback. xo
Hi Sue. As always, your artwork is beautiful. You put your heart and soul in everything that you do. When I was a child, my bedtime prayer was a little bit more gentle:
Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me:
Bless Thy little lamb tonight;
Through the darkness be Thou near me,
Keep me safe till morning light.
But I didn’t like that last line because I slept in later than the morning light. So I always added . . . when I wake up.