“Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” Biblical Explanation


For many people, the “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer is just a Christian children’s bedtime poem. This is largely true because the familiar words of this language bring comfort to many children and even adults. They often say these words before going to bed.

Looking beyond the rhyme brings comfort and serenity. It reveals a powerful message, truth, and wisdom. Such prayers will only change your life when you say them not out of routine, but with meaning and understanding.

This article aims to explain the origin and words of this prayer. It aims to bless your life and fill it with peace whenever you say it.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Full Prayer

The earliest known version was published by George Wheler in his 1698 book ‘The Protestant Monastery‘.

It says,

“Here I lay me down to sleep.

To thee, O Lord, I give my Soul to keep,

Wake I ever, Or, Wake I never;

To thee O Lord, I give my Soul to keep for ever.”

But the traditional prayer we know today was published in the 1737 edition of the New England Primer by Thomas Fleet. 

The words say,

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake,

I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.”

A fuller retelling says,

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake,

I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.

If I should live for other days,

I pray thee, Lord, to guide my ways.


Origin of the ‘Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep’ Prayer

Though it speaks of biblical ideas, this petition is not actually Scripture. Its interesting history dates way back to the 17th century.

Historical sources believe that the rhyme was inspired by another popular Christian bedtime rhyme for kids. This rhyme is known as the “Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John” prayer. It is believed to have spread from Germany to England.

Joseph Addison is believed to have been influenced by a similar early version from 1698. This version is credited to him as the author. And so in 1711, the English politician and literary figure published a piece in his magazine “The Spectator” which said,

“When I lay me down to Sleep,

I recommend myself to his Care;

when I awake,

I give myself up to his Direction.”

In the years that followed, different people adapted these words to fit various circumstances. This gave rise to what we now know them to be.

The traditional version published in the New England Primer in 1737 is the most popular adaptation. This version is now widely used.

Another notable version is one from a World War I poster advertising the United States Government bonds:

“Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

God bless my brother gone to war

Across the seas, in France, so far.

Oh, may his fight for Liberty,

Save millions more than little me

From cruel fates or ruthless blast,’

And bring him safely home at last.”

In later years, it was popularized as a children’s poem. Many people eventually started calling it the catholic ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ prayer. But amidst the changing words, one thing was constant: its message of committing oneself and affairs to God’s care.

Biblical Meaning of ‘Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep’ Prayer

At first look, the first two lines of this petition quickly bring a Bible verse to mind.

It is Psalm 4:8 which says, 

“When I lie down, I go to sleep in peace; you alone, o Lord, keep me perfectly safe.” 

David and Addison both conveyed a common idea in this psalm and rhyme. The idea was about trusting God with their lives and souls. They emphasized the importance of this trust even when they lay down to sleep.

When you are awake, you are aware of your surroundings and try your best to avoid trouble. However, when you close your eyes to sleep, you will inevitably become vulnerable. This realization is not meant to make you more afraid of what you do not know. Instead, it is meant to encourage you to find peace in God. He is the only one who can truly protect your soul.

The last two lines of the prayer say,

“If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.”

At first glance, it may seem that this sentence only refers to death. However, in reality, it is actually highlighting the promise of eternal life that believers have in Jesus Christ. This sentence can be simplified and split into several shorter coherent sentences. The simplified version is as follows: “It speaks of confidence in His sacrifice on the cross.”

His sacrifice is meant to set men free from sin and death. The purpose is for them to be with God for all eternity.

You belong to God; soul, and body. And so will He not take care of His own?

By praying these words meaningfully, you can become a Christian. You will experience delight and peace in knowing that you are safe in God’s arms. This feeling will last through the night and for eternity.

Benefits of Saying this Prayer

  • It fixes your attention on God as the shepherd and caretaker of your soul, especially in worrying times.
  • It can help you surrender your life into God’s hands while you sleep, knowing that He watches over your soul.
  • It can be a night-time prayer to ask for divine protection, as well as make you conscious of it.
  • Such knowledge and awareness can help you sleep better and more soundly, feeling refreshed when you wake up.
  • Teaching these words to your family or kids can be a great way to help them build their faith in God.


The “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” prayer is often seen as a children’s rhyme. However, its message holds power and can resonate with people from various backgrounds. To find unshakable peace, trust in God’s ability to take care of you, hand over your life and its troubles to Him.

Believers say it to remind themselves to surrender completely to God in both their words and actions. This surrender is necessary if they want to live a life without anxieties. Whether child, teen, or adult, we can all benefit from the confidence and peace that this prayer offers in our world today.