As a child, I was blessed to have a mother who taught me to pray the simple children’s bedtime prayer:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray dear Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray dear Lord my soul you’ll take.”
Sixty-five years later, as I was caring for my 92-year-old mother in our home, I felt the power of this prayer she had taught me. Each night we would snuggle in bed and talk about the happenings of the day, then together pray the prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep”
She would fold her hands, close her eyes, and together we prayed — just as I did when I was a little girl kneeling beside my childhood bed. It was the first prayer my mother taught me to memorize and the last one I prayed with her as we cared for her in her final days.
What, to me, was a simple prayer became the glue between us while she lived in our home the last 3 months of her life. And, much to my surprise, I discovered that I could still recite this prayer in my mother’s native German tongue; I had no idea the impact that would have on me, recounting this prayer in German night after night. When I memorized the prayer as a child, I had learned it in the German language but, through the years, I began only reciting it in English with my grandchildren.
As I sat with my mother, we reminisced a great deal and began singing songs in German. It was then I discovered that the songs and prayers I learned as a child in German were still as strong and true as they were when I was a kid; memories of them were etched deeply in my mind and inerasable with time.
I also noticed I felt a deeper connection to God in my prayers as I began to lift them up more frequently in my mother’s tongue. What started with my mother in her dying days, simply praying my childhood prayer in German, became my way of praying for the next three years.
The last night of my mother’s life holds very special memories for me. As my sister and I stood by her bed, watching her shallow breathing and knowing her time was near, we said the prayer, “If she should die before she wakes, I pray dear Lord her soul you’ll take.” We had confidence in the prayer after it having been present throughout our entire lives and, at the moment, we had no fear.
Prayer is not complicated nor does it require beautiful, polished, or descriptive words — it only requires a simple childlike faith that God hears our prayers. Some of the simplest prayers can give us great comfort in a life often filled with complexities that can overwhelm the soul.
I saw the answer in that simple prayer as I watched my mother, in her final moments, lay down to sleep and I knew God kept her soul. The prayer gave her life as she was transitioning from this world to go be with our Heavenly Father and, at the same time, gave me peace for this life as I watched my mother slip away at midnight on October 16, 2012.
• Anne Beiler is the founder of Auntie Anne’s pretzels and author (with Shawn Smucker) of “Twist of Faith: The Story of Anne Beiler, Founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels” (Thomas Nelson, 2008). This article is in memoriam of Amanda Smucker.
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