New parents may find implementing bedtimes a difficult challenge. For children who are used to going to sleep whenever they want, transitioning to a set bedtime can be very difficult. Implementing bedtimes on older children who are not used to them can lead to exhausted parents, which is why enforcing bedtimes at an early age is so important.
A whole separate challenge is prayer time before bed.
After all, what child wants to recite a prayer before bedtime when they could hear a story about far away lands filled with adventures read to them? Well, what if you could have both? As a reward for saying nighttime prayers, the child can be praised with a story.
Better yet, you can tell your son or daughter a story from the Bible.
In this article we’ll show you how to teach and implement bedtime prayers for young children, how to set bedtimes, and why sleep is so important for your growing son or daughter.
The first prayer we usually learn as children at bedtime is, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”
It may surprise you to learn this is not a Bible verse nor a prayer found in the Scripture. This prayer was written by Joseph Addison in an essay entitled “The Spectator” in March 1711.
“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 verse was later re-written with the edits we recite today in The New England Primer. Since then, various pop culture outlets have used this prayer in their art, most notably the American heavy metal band Metallica's 1991 song Enter Sandman.
However, the Bible does have some wonderful verses to recite before bedtime that incite comfort and relaxation. The last thing we want is a wandering mind before we close our eyes for the night. During these times Scripture brings us back to our soul's spiritual balance.
Some of these verses include:
Jeremiah 1:5a: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
Psalm 37:5: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.”
Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.”
More specifically, there are verses in the Bible about sleep that urge you to rest easy. God tells us through the Bible to take such comfort in His words. For the faithful have Him as our lighthouse as we lay our heads down to rest. We can sleep peacefully knowing He is watching over us.
Some verses about sleep include:
Proverbs 3:24: “If thou sleep, thou shalt not fear: thou shalt rest, and thy sleep shall be sweet.”
Psalm 114:198: “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.”
Psalm 4:8: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.”
One of the best ways to teach children any new behaviors and healthy sleep habits is to lead by example.
If you want your children to pray before sleep, let them watch you pray at bedtime. Praying is not something you should be ashamed of, nor is it something that you should always have to conduct in private.
Sure, there are some conversations we prefer to have with God in the privacy of our own rooms, but let your children see you pray out loud for a multitude of reasons. Showing them how you pray teaches them how to pray. You are also demonstrating that there is no shame in praying.
It's not a display of weakness to ask God for help in our prayers. It’s best for your children to understand this by seeing you lead by example. Let your youngsters see you pray in times of need, and show them that you also pray in times of celebration.
The breakfast and dinner table are great times to demonstrate our gratitude to Jesus Christ through prayer. We should also remember that we should not just make the association with praying as asking for something. Sometimes we pray to show appreciation, other times we pray to celebrate victories in our lives, whether they be large or small.
Your children idolize you and tend to copy the behaviors they see you demonstrate on a regular basis. Once they see prayer as a cornerstone in your life, it will create a gateway for productive communication about prayer and how they can also implement it into daily life.
Let's also remember, God doesn't necessarily want to hear the same prayers from you every night verbatim. Our prayers to God are communication, our direct line to Him. However, it’s common for children to have a set formula or even the same set prayer to say before bedtime just to get them in the habit of praying at a young age.
While this is not incorrect, their prayers should evolve as they get older.
A prayer your child can begin reciting before bedtime can be as short and sweet as:
Dear Jesus, thank you for this blessed day. We are very grateful for the health of our family, the roof over our heads, and the love we share for each other. Please watch over us as we sleep peacefully tonight. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
After they are comfortable with their initial prayers, you can begin discussing the bigger picture of using prayer as their time to openly talk to God. Once again, you can always lead by example.
The important thing to reiterate is that they speak from the heart.
A child needs enough sleep during the course of the night to function effectively during the day. What greatly helps contribute to this is a consistent bedtime, which should be implemented in a child's bedtime routine.
As a parent, you want to begin a healthy sleep foundation. This begins with a regular bedtime. Once you have established a bedtime for your child it’s important to have your son or daughter start getting their mind ready for it an hour or so in advance.
The hour before sleep should be filled with low brain stimulation activities. Electronic devices such as an iPhone and or iPad should be put away for the night. These activities leading up to prayer can be replaced by storytime, whether you are reading to your youngster or they choose their own book to read.
Electronics that emit blue light are also a deterrent to healthy sleep. The blue light the device produces suppresses the body's ability to release melatonin. This is the body's natural chemical that causes drowsiness.
If you find your youngster is still tired the next day, an earlier bedtime may be necessary. During different stages of development, your growing child will need different amounts of sleep. The hours of sleep that a two-year-old needs isn't the same for a five-year-old.
Additionally, bedtime techniques that work for a preschooler, such as a soothing lullaby in the middle of the night, may not work for a school-age child.