Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sleep vs. Prayer

The Lord has been pinpointing sleep lately and breaking me of it.

On Sunday the 15th, Carmen and I went into the Keswick center to pray. As long as we were together, it was fine and fervent, but after about 45 minutes, she had to go, because she's off campus. We agreed to pray individually and continue on all night if possible.

I approached it with a passionate and hungry attitude. "I want to spend every last drop of my strength!" I said to myself. "I want to pray until I literally cannot move a muscle for exhaustion." I was stirred up with love for the needs I was praying for, and I wanted to join with them in their sufferings in this small measure.

Notwithstanding my eagerness, once I was alone, I found it very difficult to pray with passion any more, or indeed, to pray at all. I began by energetically pacing back and forth on the floor of the Keswick Center, but after about half an hour, I sat down with my back to the wall and snuggled up in my down blanket. My prayers were coming out in halting, unfocused phrases, and I was speaking slower and slower, in a semi-incoherent, sleepy voice.

Before long, I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I stirred feebly to try to arouse myself, but there was no spirit of burning-hearted, passionate prayer behind my efforts, only a fading determination to hold out. Periodically I'm sure I must have dozed off, only to awaken and murmur some more thoughts to the Lord. This lasted until midnight.

At about midnight, I got frustrated. "If this is all that's going to happen, I give up," I thought. "I'm here to pray, but I'm not praying. If I can't get into the spirit of prayer, then what am I doing here?" I gathered up my blanket and my water bottle, put on my flip flops, and headed toward the door.

The Lord's whisper stopped me in my tracks. "Watch with me," He breathed into my ear. It was an invitation more than a command.

I turned around. I set my water bottle and blanket back down and tried again to pray.

Still nothing came. I felt alone, devoid of energy, and unable to pray. My mind was blank, and try as I might, I could not get it engaged in the business of prayer.

My frustration poured itself out as I said, "Lord, I need your help to pray. I'm here to pray, not to merely stay awake for nothing--aren't I?" Suddenly I had a horrible fear that that was all I was going to get to do. I was just going to sit there for nothing, vainly struggling to stay awake for no reason.

I started to cry. Hot, petulant tears coursed down my cheeks as I said, "Lord, all I want to do is go to sleep." I was whining, "I just want to go to sleep. I'm so tired. Ahhhhh please! I just want to go to sleep." I sounded like an annoying 5-year-old throwing a fit. Here I am, almost 30 years old, never having given up my sleep for a baby or for college studies or for any of the normal reasons that people pull all-nighters (though I did drive almost all through the night once, and I stayed up the entire night before my cousin's wedding, sewing my bridesmaid's dress), and I was whining like a spoiled child. I heard myself and it was disgusting.

I pulled myself together and accepted the lack of sleep. I waited. I still couldn't pray. I had no thoughts, no energy, no inspiration. I just waited, awake. (I might have dozed off, too.)

Finally, at 2:30, I felt like I heard a declaration. "It is broken." I went gratefully to bed.

To Be Continued

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