18 Mar 2011

Prayer Journal is a Focus Life Line When You Are Sleep Deprived

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A massively disrupted sleep schedule has been my biggest adversary for my Lenten discipline.  Before I go into that let me recap what I am doing. I am spending 30 minutes of prayer in a prayer closet. My routine looks kind of like this…

  • In the morning I have 20 minutes of centering prayer before I go to work.
  • Afterwards, I pick a name from my prayer jar and put it in my pray catch to carry with me throughout the day.
  • At the end of the day, I go back into the prayer closet and spend roughly ten minutes praying for my person of the day and whatever else is in my prayer catch or comes to mind.

One additional practice has emerged that I didn’t intend.  My ten minutes is mostly spent writing my prayers in a prayer journal.  I started doing this so that I could maintain my focus while praying in a time of being fatigued.  I won’t go into all of the details, but I began Lent by driving through the night to St. Charles Missouri in order to respond to a family health emergency. I haven’t had a single normative night of sleep since because of a variety of circumstances.  Praying when you are sleep deprived can be excruciatingly difficult.
I would encourage you to try journaling your prayers when you are tired.   The physical action of putting pen to paper will keep you engaged.  You need to realize though that this is simply a crutch to help you maintain a faithful walk while you are limping from a lack of sleep.  You really owe it to yourself and God to rest that body.  Rest is a holy obligation.  One of the commandments (not suggestions) that God gave us is that we are to Sabbath.  That simple reality reminds me that God expects me to rest.
Surprisingly, 20 minutes of centering prayer has often been easier than the 10 minutes of free prayer.  The big difference is that my 10 minutes is at the close of the day when I am more tired.  I am anticipating that both will get easier and more enjoyable as my body gets straightened out into a new sleep pattern. I could move my 10 minutes prayer to a time of the day when I feel fresher, but frankly, I really like having my day bracketed by prayer. There is something nice about ending my day with prayer. Perhaps, the bigger issue is addressing the fatigue.
If you google sleep deprivation symptoms, what you read will keep you up at night and place your name among the ranks of those in the statistics.  It’s shocking how many Americans are sleep deprived.  Studies also seem to indicate that people are not fully aware of just how much fatigue is effecting them.  I am beginning to suspect fatigue is a silent killer of people spiritually.  Conversationally, I have discovered that an inability to focus is the  number one obstacle for most people in their pursuit of reading scripture and praying.  Their minds are so tired, they simply can’t do it or enjoy the time.
That said, I am going to go put my hypocritical self back into bed.  Ironically, I wrote this between 3 and 5 a.m. because I couldn’t sleep.  Go figure.  Tomorrow, I plan on exercising more than normal and staying hydrated to hopefully help reset my body clock.  I am ready for at least one really good night of sleep.  My spirit needs it. Good night and I hope you sleep tight.


4 Responses

  1. John, I hope you are enjoying now or will soon enjoy a deep, restful sleep that restores mind and soul. I have had my own trouble with insomnia over the past six months, and know first-hand how draining it can be. I started missing Sunday worship because of it, and that makes me feel really off track.

    Grace and peace,

  2. admin

    Thanks Cheryl, I actually fell back to sleep for almost 4 hours. I am hoping tonight to get back on track. For me regular exercise is an important key. When I reflect on the connection between fatigue and my spiritual well-being it’s hard for me to know which is the chicken or the egg. Lack of prayer will leave me with a restless spirit, making sleep difficult. But, lack of sleep equally seems to compromise my ability to meaningfully be present and available to God. I will add you to my prayer catch and lift you up for restored balance and a refreshed body. Thank you for you comment.

  3. Ashley

    Hi John,
    I enjoyed reading this blog post. What exactly is a prayer catch?
    Hope you have been sleeping better.

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