Have you ever fallen asleep while praying? Ever felt guilty about it and scolded yourself over it? I sure have. Plenty of times. Until something recently made me look at it differently.
One evening not too long ago, after the kids had gone to the their rooms, I came into the living room to find my wife Cindy reclining on the sofa after a long day. Beautiful. I couldn’t resist the moment, so I nestled my way in behind her, wrapping my arms around her to keep her from falling off. Before long she was far away in dreamland.
I layed there for a long while soaking in the moment before I too fell asleep. I was entranced by our mutually shared warmth, security, comfort, peace and joy. Pure contentment.
Was I offended and upset that she had fallen asleep on me? Not a chance. In fact her peaceful sleep in my arms brought me tremendous satisfaction. What better place for her to fall asleep? What higher honor could she bestow on me than to rest in my arms?
This experience made me think about prayer and all the times I’ve fallen asleep during it. Perhaps God isn’t up there offended and angry about it. Perhaps he’s thrilled that my last waking moments were spent with him and that I fell asleep peacefully in his arms.
Today I just finished a biography of Amy Carmichael and she seems to agree with this. In her later, invalid years she came up with seven instructions on prayer. Number six is this: “Don’t worry if you fall to sleep. ‘He giveth unto His beloved in sleep.'”
Perhaps the religion/relationship distinction comes into play here. If it’s true that God wants a relationship with us, then falling asleep while snuggling with Him isn’t such a bad thing at all. Conversely, if our faith merely consists of performing religious duties, (i.e. saying our prayers) than falling asleep is an offensive crime.
I think it’s so easy to accidentally slip back into the religion mentality, forgetting that it really is all about relationship. This encounter with my wife jolted me back to a better way of looking at my spiritual life.
Certainly the entirety of our prayer life can’t consist solely of snuggling and sleeping in the arms of God. Any relationship needs honest, heartfelt communication–both ways. But I, for one, am done kicking myself for the times when I fall asleep while praying.