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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

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"Now I lay me down to sleep
And pray the Lord my soul to keep
And if I die before I wake
Pray the Lord my soul to take"

A common Christian prayer said before bedtime, dating back at least to the 18th-century New England Primer. An alternative version avoids mentioning death by rendering the latter two lines as

"Thy love stay with me through the night
And wake me with the morning light."

In media, this prayer is always said by children and has two uses:

In the first variation, expect some kind of mundane addition like "and also give me a pony."


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    Audio Plays 
  • On We're Alive, Burt mentions it when he, Saul and Angel are camping out on the roof of his store for the night.
    Burt: Remember to say you prayers boys, especially the part about "If I should die before I wake."
    Saul: Oh great! There's no way I'm getting any sleep now.
    Burt: Good! I was hoping to force a lookout.

  • Bill Cosby, in his "Cool Covers" routine from the Revenge album, describes how inappropriate it is to teach this prayer to a young child who's already scared to go to bed due to bedroom closet monsters.
  • Tim Hawkins mentioned this too.
    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...
    *kiss* Sweet dreams! See you in the morning — maybe! ... Oh, and don't let the bedbugs bite! Muahahahaha!
  • Dennis Miller also mentioned the inherent creepiness in the prayer on his old HBO show. After completing the four lines, he responded with "Fuck that, I'm never going to sleep again!"

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: One story has Walter the Wobot serve a jail sentence, where he's seen reciting a prayer for Judge Dredd to stay healthy in Walter's absence every night. Walter's cellmate begs to be put in a different cell.

    Comic Strips 
  • Done many times in newspaper comics with small children like Dennis the Menace and The Family Circus.
  • A Garfield strip shows Jon starting the prayer, but he stops because he hears Garfield open the refrigerator door.
  • Parodied in a Pearls Before Swine strip with Larry the Croc and his son:
    "Now I lay me down to sleep.
    Mow da zeebas down like sheep.
    Give dem to me nice and dead.
    Me no happy 'til me fed."
  • In one Peanuts strip, Snoopy says this prayer when he's camping with the birds. When he gets to "If I should die before I wake", they all panic and hide in his hat.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street:
    • Used rather ominously, though appropriately, in A Nightmare on Elm Street when Nancy prepares for the climactic confrontation with Freddy.
    • The Dream Master rhyme from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is a variation of it:
      Chorus Children: Now I lay me down to sleep. The Master of Dreams my soul will keep. In the reflection by my side...
      Alice Johnson: Evil will see itself, and it shall die!
  • Little Miss Marker: Sorrowful Jones (Adolphe Menjou) teaches the rhyme to Marthy Jane (Shirley Temple) before she goes to bed. It's part of the process in which hard-boiled bookie Jones bonds with the little girl in his care.
  • Used in the trailer for My Soul to Take.
  • Nancy starts reciting this when she sees Jason in her cabin in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
  • One adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has Ichabod give a rather humorous variant, to show how completely paranoid he is about supernatural things:
    Ichabod: And if I die before I wake, please bring me back to life!

  • In On a Pale Horse, Death decides to read his mail against the advice of his household staff, and one of the letters is from a girl who is afraid that she'll die in her sleep because her mother makes her recite this prayer before going to bed.
  • Then there's the Selfish Kid's Prayer by Shel Silverstein:
    If I should die before I wake
    Pray the Lord my toys to break
    So no other kids can use 'em...
  • Discworld:
    • In Hogfather, Susan mentions this as one of the reasons she hates the previous nanny of the kids she looks after due to the implication that this would be a GOOD thing.
    • Thud!: After extremist dwarfs break into Vimes's house, he, Sybil and their baby son briefly move into the Watch house. Four troll officers volunteer to guard Young Sam. Vimes hopes the boy will be impressed when he's older, as the best most kids can hope for is angels.
    • Making Money: Moist recalls that this prayer was potent invoked Nightmare Fuel for him as a boy.
    • Parodied in Pyramids: Arthur, classmate of the protagonist in a Boarding School, is seen (in a Flash Back scene) sacrificing a goat to Great God Orm in a dormitory before bedtime.
      "A fellow can't sleep with all this religion going on."
  • The first half of Earthfall by Orson Scott Card (dealing with a crisis during an interstellar voyage with most of the characters in suspended animation) is titled If I Should Wake Before I Die.
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, the second verse of Marvin's lullaby starts with this line.
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    Try to count electric sheep
    Sweet dream wishes you can keep
    How I hate the night
  • In Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series the books are all named for this poem, My Soul to Take/Steal/Keep/Save/... and late If I Die and Before I Wake.
  • In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla has to figure out something for Anne to say for her evening prayers, seeing as she'd never been taught any. Marilla quickly rules this one out, because Anne very much does not fit the adorable child image associated with it.
  • In The Grapes of Wrath it's mentioned how Ruthie told this prayer when she was little:
    Now I lay me down to sleep.
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
    An' when she got there the cupboard was bare,
    An' so the poor dog got none. Amen.
  • In Gone In Plague Dekka says this prayer along with Hunter as Sam prepares to mercy kill him. He kills Hunter just as he says "If I should die-"
  • If I Should Die Before I Wake is the name of a novel by Han Nolan. It's about a neo-Nazi teenager who's in a coma after a motorcycle accident. She alternates between being aware of things in her hospital room, despite being unable to communicate, and having mysterious dreams/visions of being a Jewish girl name Chana during the Holocaust.
  • In the final The Obernewtyn Chronicles novel, The Red Queen, this prayer is the password required to shut down Sentinel.
  • In Ramona Forever, during Ramona and Beezus's backyard funeral for their cat Picky-Picky, they decide that they should pray, and Ramona starts to say this prayer since it's the only one she knows. Beezus objects, saying "You're not the one who's being buried," so Ramona changes it to "Now we lay Picky-Picky down to sleep." She uses the "...morning light" variation of the prayer's last line, and when Beezus objects that Picky-Picky won't wake with the morning light, she insists that cats have nine lives, so he will wake up the next morning as someone else's kitten.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied by, of all people, Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H:
    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    A bag of peanuts at my feet.
    If I die before I wake,
    Give them to my brother Jake.
  • In the episode "Something Wicked" Supernatural uses a variation emphasizing angels instead of death, but either version fits well with the series themes.
    Little girl: Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
    May angels watch me through the night,
    And keep me safe til morning light.
  • In the last episode of Penny Dreadful an unnamed woman sings this prayer to her baby (composition by Tom Kitt), and the song continues to play during the opening credits, replacing the series theme.

  • The HIM song "Buried Alive By Love" plays with the second part of the prayer:
    If I should die before I wake, pray no one my soul to take
    And if I wake before I die, rescue me with your smile.
  • Said word-for-word in Metallica's "Enter Sandman".
    • This one is also parodied in Megadeth's song "Go to Hell":
      Now I lay me down to sleep,
      Blah, Blah, Blah, my soul to keep.
      If I die before I wake,
      I'll go to hell, for heaven's sake!
    • And, true to form, also parodied by Beatallica in "Sandman" ("Taxman" + "Enter Sandman"). It's actually the same thing as Metallica's, except they replace "God" with "Cliff".
  • Pirates of the Mississipi, "Feed Jake"
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    Pray the Lord my soul to keep
    And if I die before I wake, Feed Jake
    He's been a good dog, my best friend, right through it all
    If I die before I wake, Feed Jake
  • "Midnight Girl/Sunset Town" by Sweethearts of the Rodeo:
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    Pray the Lord my soul to keep
    If I should die before the world turns 'round
    Lord, don't leave me in this one horse town
  • Kid Cudi uses the last two lines in the chorus of The Prayer:
    And if I die before I wake
    I pray the Lord my soul to take
    But please don't cry
    Just know that I am making songs for you
  • Parodied in P.O.D.'s song "Southtown":
    Could be the next guy that you take before I wake,
    Now I lay me down to sleep, eyes tight, when I pray.
  • Somewhat borrowed in Sophie B. Hawkins' "As I Lay Me Down".
  • A rather creepier version in Tom Waits' Lullaby from Blood Money:
    If I die before you wake
    Don't you cry, don't you ache
    Nothing's ever yours to keep
    Close your eyes, go to sleep
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers put their own spin on it in "Sir Psycho Sexy":
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the funk will make me freak
    If I should die before I wake
    Allow me, Lord, to rock out naked!
  • The song "Now I Lay Thee Down" by Machine Head takes its title from this.
  • Literally quoted line on Frank Zappa's album Lumpy Gravy.
  • In Kanye West's "Only One"
    As I lay me down to sleep
    I hear her speak to me
    Hello 'Mari, how ya doin'?
    I think the storm ran out of rain, the clouds are movin'
    I know you're happy, cause I can see it
    So tell the voice inside ya head to believe it
  • The final bridge to Dru Hill's love ballad "5 Steps":
    So now I lay me down to sleep
    And I pray my Lord my soul to keep
    And if I die before I wake
    Then I promise I'll be there for you always
  • Used straight in Patti Smith's "Frederick".
  • In "For My Broken Heart" by Reba McEntire, we get a parody/variation in this lyric:
    Last night I prayed the Lord my soul to keep,
    Then I cried myself to sleep.
  • Gets quoted near the end of Aesop Rock's "Bracket Basher", off of the Daylight EP:
    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
    And if I die before I wake,
    Give my ASR to El and bury me with my mistakes!

    Western Animation