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
So goes a traditional nighttime prayer taught by American moms to their children for generations.
It may seem odd to us today that there would be the mention of death in a child's prayer. But scientists say that sleep is the closest we come to death while still alive. The Greeks even had a proverb,
Sleep and death are brothers.
However, in the first century, Jewish moms taught their children a different bedtime prayer...quoting Psalm 31:
Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.
Sound familiar? It should...they are the final words of Jesus as He breathed His last (Luke 23:46).
For most of us, death comes suddenly and often without warning. But for many, there is a sense that death is imminent...and it even seems that in some cases, the dying individual yields his spirit after seeing that treasured love one or after receiving permission from an important someone, "It's okay...you can go" (perhaps merely giving in to the inevitable).
But not so in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ! His death was totally voluntary...under His control...in submission to His Father's will:
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:46 ESV
About a year or so earlier, He had spoken of this voluntary quality of His death in the beautiful metaphor of the Good Shepherd:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.... I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep... For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. John 10:11-18 ESV
Later in that same beautiful passage, Jesus says,
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-31
Talk about intimacy and security! And this with our Father God through His Son, our Lord!
So in this last word from the Cross, the God-Man Jesus Christ recites His familiar childhood prayer...the prayer learned at His mother's knee. In doing so, He consciously and in full control yields His life and returns to the bosom of His heavenly Father.
Why? for love of you and me!
Lord, we are overwhelmed...thank you...thank you...thank you!
Brings redemption, full and free
There's a yearning, in all our lives
That only Jesus satisfies
Calvary's love will sail forever
Bright and shining, strong and free
Like an ark of peace and safety
On the sea of human need
Through the hours of all the ages
Those tired of sailing on their own
Finally rest inside the shadow
Cast by Calvary's love across their souls
Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of
The deepest sin can't rise above
Calvary's love can heal the spirit
Life has crushed and cast aside
And redeem til Heaven's promise
Fills with joy once empty eyes
So desire to tell His story
Of a love that loved enough to die
Burns away all other passions
And fed by Calvary's love becomes a fire
Calvary's love has never faltered
All its wonders still remain
Souls still take eternal passage
Sins atoned and heaven gained
Sins forgiven and heaven gained
Consider making this your nighttime prayer as you drift off to sleep each night. You may also want to read and meditate on all of Psalm 31.
During Holy Week, you may like to join me by going back through the meditations...one or two each day. Journal what the Holy Spirit highlights to your heart. Last Words and Conversations:
Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34 -- a Word of Forgiveness
I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 -- a Word of Salvation
Dear woman, here is your son...Here is your mother. John 19:26-27 -- a Word of Family Affection
My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? Matthew 27:46 -- a Word of Abandonment
I am thirsty. John 19:28 -- a Word of Personal Need
It is finished! John 19:30 -- a Word of Completion
Father, into your hands I commit My spirit. Luke 23:46 -- a Word of Reunion
Bible Students: Explore these Shepherd passages and be blessed! Psalm 23 -- the Lord, my Shepherd Ezekiel 34 -- contrast with false shepherds Luke 15 -- seeks for lost sheep John 10 -- the Good Shepherd John 21:15-23 -- feed My sheep... Heb 13:20-21 -- the Great Shepherd of the Sheep 1 Peter 2:25 -- the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls 1Peter 5:4 -- the Chief Shepherd