When you hear the phrase “bedtime prayers,” what images or memories pop into your head? Do you think about times from your childhood when your parents would pray with you? Do you think of the times you’ve spent with your children in prayer before bed?
Perhaps you think of some repetitive prayers that you’ve learned through the years such as: “Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I shall die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.” Or perhaps this one: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.”
The first one has traditionally been called the Children’s Prayer and was said to originate in the 18th century. This particular version of it was later printed in The New England Primer. The second prayer is what many have called the “Model Prayer” or the “Lord’s Prayer.” It’s found in Matthew 6:9-13. Take a minute and consider other memories or thoughts that come to mind when you think about bedtime prayers.
When I pray before bed, my goal is to pray with my children before they go to sleep, as well as on my own before I fall asleep. Let’s first take take a look at bedtime prayers with your children.
Christian parents are called to model Christ to the world, but especially to their own children. We only have influence over our children for a short period of their lives. I like what Solomon said in Psalm 127:3: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
If you picture your children like arrows, you can begin to understand that our primary purpose is to aim them toward the right target. I believe one of the primary ways we do that is through modeling. When we pray with our kids before bed, we can use this opportunity to model for them what it truly means to talk to God.
We go back and forth between me leading the prayer one night and my kids leading it the next night. This has worked well because it allows them to listen, learn, and sometimes repeat, but they can still put their own pattern and words into the conversation. I believe this can help unify a parent and child spiritually before God. There’s strength in unity, and prayer is the glue that can bond the relationship between a parent, a child, and the Father even tighter.
Another focus of bedtime prayer needs to be for us individually. Bedtime prayer is our time to close our day in conversation with God. We can use this time to settle our mind from a long day and to lay our thoughts, desires and needs at His throne.
Prayer can also help us refocus on our true purpose in life and who we have to thank for it. I believe our prayers need to be heartfelt, personal, and not repetitive phrases that we have memorized over the years. Remember, it’s a conversation with God, not a rehearsed monologue.
What if you wanted to have a conversation with your spouse, yet each conversation was the same repetitive phrase over and over again? How well would that go? How encouraged or enlightened would your spouse be after that exchange? Then why do we do this with God?
Instead, take a few minutes before you start to gather your thoughts. Perhaps keep a prayer journal by your bed so that you can know exactly what you want to talk to God about that night. Take a look at the note on your phone where you’ve been writing down the needs of others. The options for creating real dialogue with God are endless. The goal is to make it personal.
Do you pray every day? Do you pray right before you drift off to sleep? Do you pray and fall asleep in the middle of the prayer? That’s okay! What better way to drift off to sleep than in deep conversation with God?
If this isn’t something you’re currently doing, then consider stepping into a bedtime prayer routine by doing it for the next seven nights. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation. You just need to start and see how God can use this opportunity for you to draw closer to Him and change your life in the process.
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