By Amber Kinloch
Do you pray before bed? I must confess, I am not consistent about it. Often, I’m sunk in my own whirlwind of thoughts and don’t feel like doing it. Or it’s late and I feel like I can’t afford the time for it—I need to go to bed. Or I skip it simply out of tiredness.
Learning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours gave me a fresh perspective. Night Prayer (the final hour of the day) nourishes my soul in a unique way. Praying this Hour has taught me about the importance of praying before bed in general. I’ve gained insights into human nature and become conscious of thoughts, fears, and needs I hadn’t dwelt on before—all things which prayer before bed (however you pray it) can address.
The Struggle of the Day
I tend to start the day in a good frame of mind. Each morning’s fresh beginning naturally fills the human heart with hope. As the day wears on, though, it’s easy to get swept up in the full whirlwind of life. There’s work to be done at our job and around the house. We have meetings and visits with friends. There are communications from various quarters to answer and people who ask favors of us. Don’t forget all the time blocked out for meals, personal hygiene, and leisure.
Along the way, we encounter a number of joys, sorrows, triumphs, difficulties, and disappointments. By the time night rolls around, our minds tend to be overwhelmed with clutter. A child is struggling in school. A spouse has got a great job offer, but you’d have to move. A friend wants your help with some volunteer work. You’re worried about a personal health problem. Your car’s making a funny noise and needs to go into the shop, but how will you get to work or run errands?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed beneath the weight of all these ordinary human problems. Even a “good day” can leave us feeling distracted. How can you focus on prayer when you have so many good memories to cherish or such great ventures to plan for?
A Reset Point
Taking time to pray before bed serves as a crucial reset point. In the Liturgy of the Hours, there are certain core themes associated with each hour. For Night Prayer, a core theme is being prepared for death.
Nightfall is a natural metaphor for death. With its arrival, we grow weary and fall asleep. Gone is our strength. Our bodies lie still, as they will in the grave. All that’s happened over the past day is done and over with forever. As for tomorrow, nothing is guaranteed.
Praying before bed is preparation for death. In the Liturgy of the Hours, specifically, the prayers, antiphons, and psalms reassure us of God’s love and encourage us to place our trust in Him. We recenter ourselves on God, remembering that He is our true treasure. Though we will die, it is no tragedy, for “life is Christ and death is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Suggestions for How to Approach Prayer Before Bed
Practically speaking, we begin by making a conscious effort to quiet our mind. I find that the darkness and stillness of night are a natural help. Both are conducive to quiet and calm. Kneel down by your bed, slow your breathing, and be still for thirty seconds or a minute. Look at a crucifix or finger some Rosary beads. Focus on God. Be present to Him in the silence.
- Talk briefly with God about your day. What went well today? What happened that you’re grateful for? What unexpected gifts did He give you? Thank Him.
- If you’ve made resolutions to conquer a certain sin or grow in a particular virtue, how is it going? How well did you control your temper or conquer your tendency towards greed or laziness? Where did you fail? How could you have done better? Ask for His forgiveness and make fresh, definite resolutions to improve.
- What are you troubled about or afraid of? Who is in need of your prayers? What do you desire? Pray for yourself and others.
- Lastly, and yet most importantly, praise Him. Praise Him for the good He has done. Praise Him because He is good. Praise Him simply because He’s God.
Praise is the most pure form of prayer. It is pure humility. It is prayer without any reference to ourselves. It is all focused on God. It is the kind of prayer we will be offering for all eternity in Heaven. Prepare by beginning now.
Having prayed, retire to bed in peace. Night need hold no terrors for you, nor the thought of tomorrow and what it might bring. God Himself protects you.
“This World, My God, Is Held Within Your Hand” is one of the hymns with which one can begin Night Prayer. It is short and speaks to the fears of the human heart. Two verses of the original hymn are used. Here they are for your consideration.
This world, my God, is held within your hand,
Though we forget your love and steadfast might
And in the changing day uncertain stand,
Disturbed by morning, and afraid of night.
From youthful confidence to careful age,
Help each one to be your loving friend,
Rewarded by the faithful servant’s wage,
God in Three Persons, reigning without end.