How do we pray when we’re exhausted? Even as I type that word––exhausted––has me right back in that feeling. When you want to pray but you’re either too sleepy or maybe even too wired mentally to pray.
I’ll start by sharing something fairly obvious but something we forget. We aren’t the first generation to get sleepy while praying. Remember Peter, James and John? They fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was praying. When Jesus came back and found them sleeping he asked them to stay awake and pray and they did it again! (Matthew 26, Mark 14).
The flesh is indeed weak. It will not be natural or come easily to pray, but it’s 100% worth it.
Today I thought I’d share just a few really practical tips to help break through that feeling. We won’t win every time, but I’m a huge believer that once we start toppling a few obstacles, we get to experience the goodness of God’s presence and motivation will hit us.
Don’t lay down.
Let’s start with an obvious one. If you can barely keep your eyes open, don’t try praying laying down thinking that maybe if you lay down, you’ll rest enough to be able to pray. I say this from oodles of experience. 😉
If I pray at night, it’s normally during some stretching. I have a terrible back and stretching is pretty necessary most days so this is an easy way for me to pray before I’m drifting off to sleep.
Go old school and kneel while praying. Plenty of prayer warriors in past generations knelt, not just out of reverence but also to simply stay alert.
Pray with pen in hand.
This isn’t bullet proof. I’ve totally fallen asleep with a pen in hand and woken up to a big ink spot in my journal. But if I’m just a little tired, this does wonders!! The motion of my pen propels my mind forward.
Pray out loud.
If I’m slightly more tired, praying out loud is a good strategy. I’m able to better pay attention to my thoughts as I hear them out loud. Plus, it’s happened, but I very rarely fall asleep while talking.
Go for a walk.
For when you need the ultimate fail-safe. I have never fallen asleep walking. 😉
Embrace the power of prayer walks
Switch up your routine.
If you need a little time to get moving in the morning, switch up your routine. Get a little extra work done around the house or for work and then start your prayer time after you drop the kids off at school. I am a big believer that how we start our day plays a part in where we head but this doesn’t mean the bulk of your prayer time needs to be before the crack of dawn. It also doesn’t mean we should settle for falling asleep every morning on our Bibles and thinking it’s somehow better than if we had waited a few hours because it was the very first thing we did.
Adagio Evening Prayer Journal
Put on praise music and simply worship God.
If you’re feeling like your brain is just swirling and exhausted, put on some worship music. Let the lyrics do the heavy lifting and simply echo their praise and offer it to the Lord. The Lord is far more gracious than we think He is most times. We assume if it’s not our words that it’s not sincere or even that worship songs can’t “count” as prayer but take that heavy load off, friend. Enjoy God’s presence.
Remember, you’re human.
Are you waking up early because all the books say to wake up early for time with God but you’ve also got a newborn? I’ve prayed prayers that God could multiply what little sleep I got. I think we should make sacrifices for our prayer life. But living on 5 hours of sleep a night so you can wake up early to pray may just be a sign that something else needs to be done.
Unbusy your life where you can.
I know we can’t cut everything that makes us busy, but I bet there are things we do in life that we think we have to do that we don’t. I love the quote by Elisabeth Elliot, “There is always enough time to do the will of God. For that we can never say ‘I don’t have time.’ When we find ourselves frantic and frustrated and harried and harassed and ‘hassled,’ it is a sign we are running on our own schedule, not on God’s.”
Be ok if every once in a while you do fall asleep.
There are some mornings when I wake up and I go to the couch and I fall asleep praying. It’s not a shameful or discouraging thing. It’s as if the presence of the Lord has brought such much-needed peace and rest to my soul that I drift into this light sleep. I’ll stir a bit and feel such delight in God’s presence and when I turn over, all I know to say is “Thank you God for this sweet time.” If you are falling asleep while praying every once in a while, embrace it! Rest in God’s presence. Remind yourself that your prayer life isn’t some performance we give to God but it’s a relationship. During these blissful times, I always think of the part of Psalm 23 that says “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
Being too tired to pray doesn’t need to add anxiety to our lives. We can push through using some of the tools above but we can also rest in God’s love for us even when we don’t.
Have any tips for how you keep awake when you want to pray?