Friday, July 20, 2007

Awake, Oh Sleeper

Do you ever find yourself falling asleep when you pray? I've found prayer so effective at making me drop off that, on those occasions when I wake in the night and can't get back to sleep I often begin to pray for members of the church. Very often I'm asleep before I've prayed for a handful of people.

Spiritual Warfare
I think there are three main reasons why prayer and sleepiness go together. The first of these explains the situation I've just outlined. We have an enemy who doesn't want us to pray. Prayer is an act of warfare in the spiritual battle that rages around us and the devil wants to stop us. He will do all he can and one of his methods is to make us feel sleepy so that we cannot concentrate. The best way I've found to counter this is by walking while I pray.

Lack of Vitality
Another reason why we get sleepy during prayer is that the vitality has gone out of our quiet times: little acts of disobedience mar our relationship with the Lord; a never changing routine can become dry and stale; failure to learn a lesson means we can't move forward. We have to do all we can to avoid creating meaningless ritual and to keep our prayer lives fresh. But above all we must make sure there is no sin or rebellion in our lives which is inhibiting the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father. If we feel as though our prayers are hitting the ceiling and going no further we will very quickly become tired of prayer.

The third reason we become sleepy in our prayer times is simply because we're tired! Most people in western society are sleep deprived. The average person today gets about 2 hours less sleep a night than was typical 100 years ago. Being a person of prayer means being alert and that requires appropriate times of sleep. Yes, I know the stories about John Wesley getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning to pray, but do you think he was up until midnight watching TV?

Not only do we need sleep, but we need to obey our Maker's instructions and actually take a day off each week. For many Christians Sunday is their busiest and most tiring day. If that's the case for you and you work 5 of the other 6 days of the week, you need to think seriously about how to apply the scriptural injunctions about keeping Sabbath. I once heard a preacher lament the number of times Christians complain about being tired but never say how much they are looking forward to the refreshment of their day off. Is that you?

Prayer College Assignment
Most adults have a pretty good idea about what time of day they function best. For some it is early in the morning, for others it may be during the afternoon or late evening. As far as you are able move your prayer time as close as possible to the time of day you feel most alert. Also think carefully about whether you are getting enough rest and sleep and consider modifying your lifestyle. You will find such changes affect your general sense of well-being and your physical health as well as your relationship with God.

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