Day 2 – Thursday
Time and Sleepiness
What have I done? I’ve made a covenant with God, and with others, to pray for an hour a day during Lent! How am I going to do that?
That may be what you’re asking, right about now. For some people, an hour of prayer is difficult. They give various reasons for the trouble they have. Among these are lack of time, sleepiness, wandering thoughts, and just plain uncertainty as to what to do with that much time. Today, I’ll talk a bit about time, and sleepiness. Tomorrow—wandering thoughts and uncertainty.
Lack of time is easy. Make time. Ephesians 5:16-17 (ESV) says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
In The Living Reminder, Henri Nouwen says:
“Our demon says: ‘We are too busy to pray; we have too many needs to attend to, too many people to respond to, too many wounds to heal. Prayer is a luxury, something to do during a free hour, a day away from work or on a retreat. The few who are exclusively concerned with prayer—such as Trappists, Poor Clares, and some isolated hermits—are really not involved in ministry. They are set free for single-minded contemplation and leave Christian service to others.’ But to think this way is harmful; harmful for ministers as well as contemplatives. Service and prayer can never be separated; they are related to each other.”
We can’t allow busyness to become an excuse for lack of prayer. Make time. Honestly, you have to take the time from somewhere. You have to choose what’s important, and what’s not. Many people get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later, to make time for prayer. This can result in sleepiness during prayer. How can this problem be solved? My personal answer is: Coffee—and lots of it! But if, like me, your coffee takes a while to kick in, and you’re having trouble nodding off, let me share a thought with you. This morning, after I’d read some scripture and I’d entered into prayer, I jolted awake, not even aware that I’d fallen asleep. It was okay, because in that half-sleep of drowsy prayer, dreams and images and notions come to you that you wouldn’t have thought of with a wakeful mind.
Now don’t get me wrong—if lack of sleep chronically impedes your prayers, you need to figure out a way to get more sleep. And maybe change your prayer location from your bed, to a chair, or a kneeling posture. Vary your posture throughout your prayer time, to avoid sleepiness. But if you are drowsy, then give yourself as much grace as God gives you. Don’t beat yourself up. Just understand that God can speak to a drowsy heart and mind in a different way than He speaks to an alert one. The moment you snap to attention, see if you can remember what you’d been pondering in that half-sleep of yours. Maybe God’s voice was there.
Remember how many people God spoke to through dreams and visions. If God could speak to Joseph (Old Testament), Daniel, Joseph (New Testament), Peter, and the like, through this means, then why couldn’t He speak to you? Maybe they weren’t mystics. Maybe they were just sleepy!