Spiritual Lullabies: Religious Nursery Rhymes and Bedtime Prayers

Artwork United Nations|CC

Can’t remember how to recite Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, or the Kumbaya lyrics? Here’s a list of religious lullabies, including classic nursery rhyme prayers, to help tuck your little one peacefully (and reverently) into sleep.

Religious Lullabies and Prayerful Nursery Rhymes

1Mathew, Mark, Luke, John

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Guard the bed that I lay on!
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head;
One to watch, one to pray,
And two to bear my soul away!


Often appearing as a Mother Goose nursery rhyme, the poem Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John has origins in the 16th-century late Medieval Germany.

Version #2 by John Aubrey, 1626

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed that I lye on.
And blessed Guardian-Angel keep
Me safe from danger whilst I sleep.

Version #3, Satire from 1830s Scotland

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
Hold the horse till I get on;
When I got on I could not ride,
I fell off and broke my side

2Evening Prayer

When at night I go to sleep,
Fourteen angels watch do keep,

Two my head are guarding,
Two my feet are guiding;

Two upon my right hand,
Two upon my left hand.

Two who warmly cover
Two who o’er me hover,

Two to whom ’tis given
To guide my steps to heaven.

Sleeping softly, then it seems
Heaven enters in my dreams;

Angels hover round me,
Whisp’ring they have found me;

Two are sweetly singing,
Two are garlands bringing,

Strewing me with roses
As my soul reposes.

God will not forsake me
When dawn at last will wake me


Evening Prayer is from Engelbert Humperdinck’s 19th-century fairy opera, Hansel and Gretel.

The Fourteen Angels refer to the fourteen holy helpers who were known as a group of saints in Roman Catholicism who protected children from various diseases and harms.

3To a Little Girl That Has Told a Lie

Artwork Eda Kaban|CC

AND has my darling told a lie?
Did she forget that GOD was by?
That GOD, who saw the things she did,
From whom no action can be hid;
Did she forget that GOD could see
And hear, wherever she might be?
He made your eyes, and can discern
Whichever way you think to turn;
He made your ears, and he can hear
When you think nobody is near;
In every place, by night or day,
He watches all you do and say.

Oh, how I wish you would but try
To act, as shall not need a lie;
And when you wish a thing to do,
That has been once forbidden you,
Remember that, nor ever dare
To disobey–for GOD is there.


This religious nursery rhyme was written in the 1800s by Jane Taylor, who also wrote the famous poem, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

4Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Here 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

There are four corners on my bed
There are four angels at my head
Mathew, Mark, Luke and John
Bless the bed that I lie on

From A Child’s Book of Prayers, 1941


While Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a common child’s prayer, most people do not know the corollary poem below:

The Unfinished Prayer

“NOW I lay,”—repeat it, darling.
“Lay me,” lisped the tiny lips
Of my daughter, kneeling, bending
O’er her folded finger-tips.

“Down to sleep”—“To sleep,” she murmured, 
And the curly head bent low;
“I pray the Lord,” I gently added;
“You can say it all, I know.”

“Pray the Lord”—the sound came faintly,
Fainter still—“My soul to keep;”
Then the tired head fairly nodded,
And the child was fast asleep.

5All Through the Night: A Welsh Lullaby

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night;
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,
All through the night.

Angels watching, e’er around thee,
All through the night
Midnight slumber close surround thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,
All through the night.

While the moon her watch is keeping,
All through the night
While the weary world is sleeping,
All through the night
O’er thy spirit gently stealing,
Visions of delight revealing
Breathes a pure and holy feeling,
All through the night.


The lullaby, All Through the Night, is based on an 1884 poem by Sir Harold Boulton, set to the tune of an old Welsh folk song.

6O Sweetly Does My Baby Sleep: A Greek Lullaby

O sweetly does my baby sleep;
When he awakes from slumber deep,
Bright sparking jewels I`ll show him.
Gay colored balls I´ll throw him
My baby in his cradle lies,
To him I sing sweet lullabies,
Gently his cradle rocking,
Whilst o´er him I`m watching
O virgin Mary, Mother of Christ,
Pour blessings on this babe of mine;
Fill his arms full of posies,
Sweet smelling herbs and roses.


The beauty of this traditional Greek folk song lies in its lovely chromatic intervals and in the ability to improvise upon the melodic phrasing when singing.

7Trees by Joyce Kilmer

Artwork Renate Ekre|CC

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


Written in 1913, Trees is a poem about how Man can never replicate the splendor of God’s creation.

The poem was thoughtfully parodied by Ogden Nash, who highlighted the point that although Man may not be able to replicate the splendor of God’s creations, Man certainly has the power to destroy, and therefore a responsibility to protect the Earth.

Song of the Open Road by Ogden Nash

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.

8All night, All Day / Angels Watching Over Me: An American Spiritual

All night, all day, Angels watching over me my lord,
All night, all day, Angels watching over me.

Sun is setting in the west; Angels watching over me my lord,
Sleep my child, take your rest; Angels watching over me.

All night, all day, Angels watching over me my lord,
All night, all day, Angels watching over me.

Now I lay me down to sleep; Angels watching over me my lord,
I pray the lord my soul to keep; Angels watching over me.

All night, all day, Angels watching over me my lord,
All night, all day, Angels watching over me.

All night, all day, Angels watching over me my lord,
All night, all day, Angels watching over me.

9Our Savior’s Golden Rule

Be you to others kind and true,
As you’d have others be to you;
And neither do nor say to men
Whate’er you would not take again.


This classic children’s rhyme was written by Isaac Watts in 1848 from his book Divine and Moral Songs for the Use of Children, which also included the following delightful poem:

Duty to God and to Our Neighbor

Love God with all your soul and strength,
With all your heart and mind;
And love your neighbor as yourself:
Be faithful, just, and kind.

Deal with another as you’d have
Another deal with you:
What you are unwilling to receive,
Be sure you never do.

10The Ten Commandments Rhyme

  1. Thou shalt have no more Gods but me.
  2. Before no idol bow thy knee.
  3. Take not the Name of God in vain:
  4. Nor dare the Sabbath–day profane.
  5. Give both thy parents honor due.
  6. Take heed that thou no murder do.
  7. Abstain from words and deeds unclean:
  8. Nor steal, though thou art poor and mean.
  9. Nor make a willful lie, nor love it.
  10. What is thy neighbor’s dare not covet.

This children’s rhyme was written by Isaac Watts in the book Divine Songs from 1866 in order  to help children remember the Ten Commandments.  It was published in numerous hymnals.

11Oranges and Lemons

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow

Heer comes a candle to light you to bed
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

(Chip chop, chip chop, the last man’s dead!)


Often published as a nursery rhyme in Old England, the children’s song Oranges and Lemons refers to the bells of several churches, all near the City of London.

The song is often played as a children’s game, where children walk under the arch made by two players hands. Their arms fall on the ending verse to capture a child, who is then ‘out’ of the game.

12Kum ba yah, My Lord / ‘Come by Here’

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone’s praying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s praying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s praying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.


Kumbaya is an American folk song written in the 1920s.  Unlike popular believe, it was not an African spriritual.  The meaning of kumbaya, is ‘come by here’, as a request to God to come to those in need.

Read More…