Have you ever prayed this prayer?
Seems like a very odd way of getting a child to sleep with all the implications that they might not wake up. Not exactly the recipe for a good night’s rest. It starts out well but ends frightfully.
This prayer is said to have been written in a 1698 book written by George Wheler called The Protestant Monastery[I], which is a book on the religious conduct of a family. Maybe death was a very real issue back then, and they made sure they had to be covered in this prayer each night.
Later this prayer was changed to:
I find this much more reassuring of better sleep. Yet, there is one phrase that was not changed, however. The idea that we need the Lord to keep our souls is a fascinating idea. What is soul-keeping? Is soul-keeping like housekeeping? This is what I believe the Bible teaches us.
In the book of Mark, Jesus compares our soul to a house. [iii] In that house, the enemy can take up residence and Jesus is saying only He can enter that house, bind the enemy and take back all that Satan has taken from the person. Jesus wants to clean the home of your soul. He wants to be your soul-keeper. Our job is to let Him in and cooperate with Him to do the work.
Dallas Willard, one said to John Ortberg, “Why is there such value and mystery to your existence? The really deep reason is because of this tiny, fragile, vulnerable, precious thing about you called your soul…You’re a soul made by God, made for God, and made to need God,”[iv] Asking God to come in and keep our souls every night is probably a vital idea.
I have tried keeping my own soul. Self-sufficiency was my main tool of choice. The problem I found is that it caused more mess than it accomplished, keeping my soul cleaner. For many years I believed the lie that the care of my soul was all up to me. When my soul ached, I used food, shopping, or escape from my misery as my techniques. Since our soul is considered the life center of humankind, then it is what is controlling us. It is affected by our thoughts, feelings, and intentions, but the soul makes the final decision. The soul’s need to be in good shape is fundamental to experiencing abundant life.
The truth is that we need someone pure and completely full of grace, peace, and love to manage the home of our soul. Jesus is the only one that qualifies. If we want a healthy environment in our souls, we must invite Jesus in to be the keeper. Invite Him to be the Lord of the manner. In Revelation, we are told that Jesus is standing at the door, longing to come in and be with us in every circumstance this world provides. The Lord Jesus wants to come in and bind the strong enemy that has ravished you for so long and reclaim the space you gave the enemy access to.[v] Today is the day to keep your soul by giving its ownership to Jesus, the only one with the unconditional love you long for. Join me in putting down self-sufficiency and pray with me “I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”
[ii]Debbie Trafton O’Neal; Nancy Munger (1994), Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Action Prayers, Poems, and Songs for Bedtime, Augsburg Books, p. 6, ISBN 978-0-8066-2602-4
[iii] Mark 3:27
[iv] Ortberg, J. Soul Keeping, Caring for the most important part of you., Zondervan 2014
[v] Revelation 3:20