The Now I lay me down to sleep prayer is not from the Bible, although it expresses some biblical themes. While there are various forms of the Now I lay me down to sleep prayer, the most commonly known one reads like this:
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.
The origin of the Now I lay me down to sleep prayer is somewhat unclear. The first known appearance of the prayer in its current form was in the 1737 edition of The New England Primer by Thomas Fleet. But some of its wording seems to have been inspired by The Black Paternoster in German and the Four Corners Prayer in England.
Whatever its ultimate origins, the prayer has become an exceedingly well-known nursery rhyme and has appeared in numerous songs, books, films, and art. Many children have been, and still are, taught to say this prayer every night when they go to bed.
Is the Now I lay me down to sleep prayer biblically sound? Not entirely. The prayer does express a trust in the Lord who never sleeps as He watches over His children (see Psalm 121:3–4). But, because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, we do not need to continually pray for the Lord to keep or take our souls. From the moment we receive Christ as Savior, by grace through faith, we are saved and promised an eternal home in heaven (John 3:16; 10:28–29; Acts 16:31; Romans 8:38–39). If we are trusting in Christ for salvation, we do not need to keep asking Him for something He has already promised to do. Our souls are already as “kept” and “taken” as they could possibly be.
Further, while there is nothing wrong with praying a memorized or written prayer, prayer is supposed to be living and vibrant communication between us and our Heavenly Father. Just as it would be strange to deliver a memorized speech in a conversation with another human being, so can it be inappropriate to recite memorized words to God in an impersonal and impassionate manner.
The Now I lay me down to sleep prayer does communicate reliance upon God. If spoken from the heart, and if coupled with a biblical understanding of how God “keeps” and “takes” our souls, it would not necessarily be wrong to pray this popular rhyme. But, again, the personal relationship we can have with God through Jesus Christ should lead us above and beyond memorized prayers.