With young children, bedtime is a great place to start adding in some liturgical routines. It’s the time of the day when everyone is (getting) still and quiet, you’re probably reading, singing, and talking anyway, and your kids will welcome any additional elements that postpone Mom and Dad leaving the room. Plus, this is the most consistent routine, as bedtime (thankfully!) comes around even on the busiest of days.
If you don’t already have a habit of reading the Bible with your children, this is the first step. Beyond that, think of what other instruction could be maximized by daily repetition. This is the time of day when our four-year-old will lay still through multiple verses of a hymn, and after a couple weeks of singing the same one, she’s likely to join in with an astonishing mastery of the lyrics.
Bedtime prayers are a place to sneak in some Scripture memory. We typically begin with a standard prayer–thank you for the day, God bless every family member, help our sick friends to feel better. (I love scripted prayers, as I’ll talk about later. But I do believe in modeling informal prayer as well, according to the ACTS model or something similar. This is a safe and easy place for children to practice praying in their own words.) But before we say “Amen,” my husband or I will tack on: “Now we will pray with the words that Jesus taught us,” or “Now we pray the words of Psalm 23” or whatever verse or passage we want to practice. Before too long, your child will be able to pray right along with you.
We’ve also used those quiet, dark minutes after “lights out” to practice catechism questions, to talk about serious questions that have arisen from the day, or to reinforce a thought we want our child to ponder as she drifts off to sleep.
Although I’m much less careful with my own bedtime routine, the same principles apply. In those moments before I switch off the light, am I taking one last look my iPhone notifications, watching TV, or running through tomorrow’s to-do list? These do not prepare my mind for rest. Part of the reason I’m writing this blog series is to prod me back into some habits that I know are good for me, like being more thoughtful with my last wakeful moments. I love to end the day with one of John Baille’s evening prayers, or with a reading from the Valley of Vision or Voices from the Past.
Ditto for the mornings. The worst thing I can do is start the day by turning on the news (instantly depressing). The second worst thing is to begin the day with my own thoughts (usually grumbly for at least an hour). So while I’m getting dressed, I listen to the Daily Audio Bible, or a good hymn mix, or even one of Abby’s Seeds CDs. It’s whatever is the opposite of “garbage in, garbage out.” Whatever I fill my mind with in those first minutes spills over into the rest of my morning. And my mornings need all the help they can get!
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