Now I Lay Me
“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.” That was one of four prayers I said aloud each night as a child. Three of them were very short children’s prayers. I still remember all of them, even though I don’t say them any more. I probably should.

I don’t know very much about the power of prayer. It’s a phrase that gets bantered around quite a bit these days, and since I consider myself a spiritual person, it stands to reason that I should also believe in that power of prayer. I know there are circles who might question my belief in God because I don’t know very much about it, but anything less than a proclamation of the all-compelling power of prayer is a deal-breaker for many religious people these days. So often we forget that every prayer originates with us. I doubt I will ever believe that anything initiated by us is automatically sanctified. Still, I certainly don’t doubt the possibilities, and I definitely pray, but I don’t know for certain whether it does a bit of good. I think it does. I’ll be honest. I know I feel better afterwards, and I have a strong sense that all is well with the world again because my God has heard my plea and will act in the best possible way on my behalf.

Of course, needless to say, that doesn’t mean all my wishes will be granted. I remember as a child praying for the most outlandish stuff. A new red bike, for instance. I think that particular prayer was one of those watershed eye-opener moments for me, because I distinctly remember thinking how selfish I was to ask God for a bike when there were children starving in China. That’s what we were told in my day, you know. I remember changing that new bike prayer in favor of the starving Chinese – especially the children. I was quite serious too. If God wanted to forego my beautiful new Schwinn in favor of feeding all those Chinese, I would be just fine with that, even though I really did need a new set of wheels.

I got it too, and it was gorgeous - the brightest red ever. I also remember thinking how great it was that with all those starving people, my insignificant needs were met just the same. Of course, it could have been my parents doing - completely on their own, because it was just like them to do something nice. Although, I didn’t notice a heavenly glow suddenly surround them as if driven by some divine intervention. But hey! You never know. I don’t hear much about starving Chinese anymore, do you? Maybe He answered both of my requests that night. Maybe the power of prayer really is that effective – especially in the hands of a newly selfless ten-year old boy.

But I’m quite a few years older now, and I honestly feel a little blasphemous saying this, but I’m not sure God granted anything that night. I have no idea whether either of the events in question were the kinds of things worthy of consideration by the Almighty, much less actually fulfilling. And as I said, I feel bad verbalizing that, because I’ve been conditioned to believe that the power of prayer is totally overwhelming, so it took this long for me to consider that perhaps both of those requests were wasted efforts.

I have always wondered about that – even now, so I try to be really careful not to make requests of a similar nature when I pray. I stopped asking for material things and ridiculous stuff. “Lord if you could see your way to get me that raise. I really need it because the electric bill is through the roof. Speaking of the roof, there’s a hole…” Certainly you can see the value in not tempting God Almighty for material gain (the adult version of a new bike), and praying for world peace or hunger seems almost like chastising the Lord. If He couldn’t be bothered to feed all the children on his own, reminding Him about it and suggesting He get on the ball becomes almost accusatory and therefore, hardly proper.