Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
This is the text of a well-known children’s bedtime prayer. And it’s also quite similar to an evening prayer of first century Jewish families. Traditionally, the father of the household would pray verse 5 from Psalm 31 with his family as the curtain of night closed over the household. “Into Your hands, I commit my spirit,” he would recite.
While that ancient Jewish custom is probably not common knowledge, even a casual student of the New Testament knows well that this was also the last statement that Jesus made before he “breathed His last.” (Luke 23:46)
Realizing that this was a actually a prayer that a Hebrew child would pray subtly, but dramatically, shapes the meaning of these words for me. That’s especially true considering the one word Christ added that shifts the statement from simply an Old Testament quote to a personal plea.
“Father!” Jesus called with a loud voice. “Into Your Hands I commit my spirit!”
Notice, too, that only moments before, Christ had expressed deep anguish as the weight of the world’s sin pressed down on Him. So great was the torment that He called out to the Father using terms that seem to betray Christ’s inability to feel the presence of the Almighty in these final agonizing moments. “My God! My God!” He exclaimed. (Matt 27:46)
Yet, even though His physical agony had surely not diminished, in those final seconds before He offered up His life as the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus called to His “Father.”
Gone is the distance. Erased is the formality. The word he utters is a tender and loving term, the same that would be used by a small child who delightfully squeals the word “Daddy!” as he is welcomed into a warm embrace. It’s intimate. Personal. And wrapped in the security of love.
You know, Christ modeled exactly what we need to know to dispel the fear of the unknown and even push back the frightening specter of death. Though unimaginable pain racked His body, even that torment didn’t obscure His confidence. His intimate connection with the Father was the basis of His trust.
So in the fearful situation you face, do you have confidence in your relationship with the Father? I’m not asking if you go to church, read the Bible or take discipleship classes. I’m not even asking if you serve in some capacity. Those activities can certainly help us understand and appreciate the Lord and His work on the earth, but I want you to think about whether you really know the Father?
A relationship with Him begins with faith in Jesus, but isn’t about a list of assignments to be carried out or rules to follow. It’s about making a connection that slowly alters all you are and all you do.
Until you understand the fundamental difference between knowing the Father and simply doing what you are told, you will always struggle with fear and anxiety about the future and sense something missing in your life. That’s because you will lack the assurance of connectedness with the Author of Life! You may know in your head that Jesus loves you and came to give you abundant life, (John 10:10) but it won’t really make much difference in the way you think and live.
So, think about your relationship with the Lord. Is it one that will sustain you through the worst that life can throw at you? If not, please know it can be. All it takes is desire, time, and a heart to seek Him. Believe that Christ will always respond to those who genuinely draw near to Him. (James 4:8)
Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart.
– Jeremiah 29:12-13