Friday, March 15, 2013

"I pray Thee Lord my soul to take"

Re-posted from 2008:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
And if I should die before I wake,
I pray Thee Lord my soul to take.

That was the prayer I learned to say when I was a child. This version of the prayer dates back at least to the 18th century. Wikipedia quotes two more modern versions as replacing the last two lines with:

When in the morning light I wake,
Teach me the path of love to take.

Guard me Jesus through the night,
And wake me with the morning light.

John Mark Reynolds comments that "Contemporary Christians worry that the story of the crucifixion may be too intense for children. Death is uncomfortable to our consumer driven and decadent popular culture. There is nothing we can buy on late night television to cure it. It is the end of our choices and our pleasures. It cannot be defeated...."

Talking about death is considered morbid. We are insulated from death in ways unknown to people in any other time in history and in most of the rest of the world today. And yet it is as unavoidable for us as it has always been for everyone else. Reynolds goes on to write:
The end is coming. This makes me sad of course. I am quite happy and have no desire to die, but die I must. It is more certain that taxes. After that?

After that best reason, divine Revelation, and experience says that after that comes the judgment. The universe has not been nice to humankind, but just. The universe is not fair, but fiercely good. The other side is not going to be Disneyland with fully effective safety devices, but full of goodness, truth, and beauty.

That means full of awe and terrible with splendor.

And I have mucked up and muddled through far too often to trust in my own good works or have confidence that my soul is, in itself, ready for such unadulterated joy. My wiring for pleasure is too little and the current of goodness too great for any such easy hopes.

My hope is in God. I really might die before I wake. These few paragraphs may post after I am no longer around to edit it. I hope not, but I do not know. This much I know:

The small and safe little world of secularism which pretends that this life is all there is cannot be for me.

Would that I could believe that this were true!

Would that death were sleep...but perchance we dream...and what dreams may come! Instead what evidence we have suggests that this life is not the end, but the beginning of a bigger reality. There is no reason to think our experience of this reality is not (as Plato would say) more intense than that one in which we find ourselves now. Our little fences and moral compromises would be blown away like prim fences in a cyclone of goodness.

Best to have learned to be one with that powerful coming wind.


There is none in our certain death or in the mere fact of an afterlife. (No exit! What a dreadful thought!) There is hope only in the greater fact of a good God.

This I do know. If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee Lord my soul to take.
If I Should Die Before I Wake...| The Scriptorium Daily: Middlebrow

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