Ask a Franciscan

A Scary Prayer for a Child

Q: As a child, I was taught to pray: “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.”

If this prayer hastened my returning to God, should I have been taught to say it? Decades later, I told my mother about my fear. She said that if she had known, she would not have made me say it. She died last year.

A: Although that prayer has not hastened anyone’s death and will not, I realize that you found it scary and inappropriate. I’m sorry for the pain it caused. Your mother acted with the best of intentions—as her response to you years later indicates. That prayer was not giving directions to God, though it may have sounded to you that it did. The prayer simply reaffirms our trust in God’s goodness.

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