What I first remember about my childhood prayer is that I would try to say it as fast as I could so my mother, who would be the prayer monitor and police, would leave the room, allowing me to have my private "talks with God." I remember talking with God from about age 3, which amazes even me. I remember speed-praying the "now I lay me," kissing my mom goodnight, and then saying to God, "Okay, God, I know you put me here for some reason, for some job, but I am only 3 and don't know what I am supposed to do. Would you please tell me so I will know?"
And I guess somethings don't change. I am clearer on what I am supposed to do, but I still have regular talks with God in which I say: "Okay God, give me some direction here - I need a little help!"
You can get some clues about my relationship with God, since most of my personal prayers begin, "Okay, God!"
Talking to God and Praying are often the same things. However, my new "Now I Lay Me" is sort of a prayer, sort of a talk, and sort of a way to package up the day and turn it over to God so I can get some sleep.
Sleep has never come easily for me, especially the year I rented my bedroom to a friend and slept in my office (it is like a sugar-freak trying to sleep in a candy store). Each time I would open my eyes, it seemed I would spy a book that demanded my nocturnal attention. I no longer sleep with my books, thank you.
My new challenge is arriving home late - after working as a Chaplain Intern at the hospital, or teaching a class or conducting a service at the Jewish Center of Venice -- www.jewishcenterofvenice.org
My mind is usually full of either trauma, drama, or liturgies dancing through it introspectively or playfully as the case may be. I imagine this happens to many of us -- we finally get to bed, our bodies weary from the day and our pesky minds say, "Bring it on! Let the party begin." Oy.
So let me share with you the prayer and the ritual I now say/do in order to drop into peaceful sleep.
My bedtime Shema goes like this.
I nestle in my bed.
Get comfy, cozy. And pray:
Ribbono Shel Olam (Maker of the Universe), as I lay here preparing for sleep, I forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me - whether against my body, my property, my honor or just me; whether by accident or willful, carelessly or purposefully, whether through speech, deed, thought or notion; whether in this transmigration or another.
I forgive everyone. May no person be punished because of me. May no one suffer any anguish because of me. Whatever errors or sins I have done this day, please blot out and guide me in rectifying if they are against another human being.
If I came across anyone who was physically injured, passing in death, and/or families that mourn, please God, tuck them into your loving care.
Ribbon Shel Olam - cast the bonds of sleep upon my eyes and slumber upon my eyelids. Lay me down to sleep in peace and raise me up erect for good life and for peace. Protect me while I sleep the sleep of peace, and guide me during my waking hours to do good work and Your Will.
This is my version of a traditional Jewish prayer. Then I allow my body to sink as if sinking into the arms of God/Shekhinah, or into a cloud, or floating on a gentle swelling ocean. The point is to sink and know that I am supported and safe. I urge each part of my body to relax and sink into the safety of the divine creation, supported and protected through the night.
By then, I am usually out like a light ........ and snoring as loud as Ruby, my French Mastiff. We do a duet during the night.
Use my ritual if it, or a variation thereof, would work for you. If not, perhaps make your own ritual and let me know how it works. Rituals are an important part in our lives -- in our waking up, and laying down, in making sacred space and time, in transitions.
And if all else fails - how about melatonin, or a hot toddy?
Is that like what you would drink if your were freezing your bippy. What is a bippy? Can a toddy be cold? So much to learn, so little time. Thankfully I have a ritual for sleep or I would be up all night thinking about toddies and bippies.