My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
do not let them out of your sight;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble;
when you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:21-24
Let’s review this prayer for going to sleep.
O Lord God, who has given man the night for rest, as you have created a day in which he may employ himself in labor, grant, I pray, that my body may so rest during this night that my mind cease not to be awake to you, nor my heart faint or be overcome with apathy, preventing it from adhering steadfastly to the love of you. While laying aside my cares to relax and relieve my mind, may I not, in the meanwhile, forget you, nor may the remembrance of your goodness and grace, which ought always to be deeply engraved on my mind, escape my memory. In like manner, also, as the body rests may my conscience enjoy rest. Grant, moreover, that in taking sleep I may not give indulgence to the flesh, but only allow myself as much as the weakness of this natural state requires, to my being able thereafter to be more alert in your service. Be pleased to keep me so chaste and unpolluted, not less in mind that in body, and safe from all dangers, that my sleep itself may turn to the glory of your name. But since this day has not passed away without my having in many ways offended you or my proneness to evil, in like manner as all things are now covered by the darkness of the night, so let everything that is sinful in me lie buried in your mercy. Hear me, O God, Father and Preserver, through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.
This prayer of John Calvin’s addresses a vital part of life of which we tend to think little about – sleep. Yet going to sleep can be a difficult time. Children can be tormented by troubling dreams. Teenagers can be dominated with lust in their dreams. Sometimes dreams provide a fantasy life that appears better than reality. Often, the images from dreams are fleeting and difficult to remember. In this prayer, Calvin alludes to these difficulties when he asks that he bring honor to God while he sleeps. One of the benefits of delighting in God is sweet sleep. Proverbs 3 indicates that pursuit of sound judgment brings this protection. The same theme is stated in Proverbs 6:22.
For children who struggle with fears while sleeping, these passages bring hope. No, this is not like a magic session where you say a verse and protection automatically comes. This is a process of seeking the wisdom of God and loving his ways day in and day out. Do you need to help a child with night fears? Talk regularly about the power of God with children who are terrified or saddened by dreams. Combat this problem by praying regularly and specifically with and for your children about the troubling dreams and thoughts they have. To be effective, your prayers and concerns must be done consistently and with a strong trust that God will help you and your children.
The Bible promises that sweet and protected sleep is possible. God never sleeps, so he can help his creatures that do sleep. So God can hear and answer your prayers when you are sleeping, because he is always awake, always able to help. This contrast between creature and Creator is a very practical, comforting fact for a child to remember.
This is where to start. In the next post we will see how these passages apply to attacking sins in our sleep. As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome.