Getting up early to pray

At lunch time today I got to this line from Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline:

David’s desire for God broke the self-indulgent chains of sleep: ‘Early will I seek Thee’ (Ps 63:1). (p. 44)

While reading a book, when I agree with something already, I tend to tick it.  If it challenges what I think, but it might be true, I put an asterix next to it. This line was a definite asterix.

I need sleep. I feel dreadful if I miss out on even an hour of sleep: an emptiness will pervade my brain for the next day to come. My whole mood lowers.

Yet I never seem to be able to get much done at all, and so I’ve been thinking that if I slept less, I could get more done.

I have occasional determinations to get up at 6 a.m. every day. Sometimes to pray, but just as often, to get in an hour’s writing.

Surely God wants us to get a good amount of sleep? I feel great when I’ve slept well – replenished.  I remember Robert Banks talking about a theology of sleep, perhaps in the Tyranny of Time, but I can’t remember what he said.

Is sleep ‘self-indulgent chains’? I’m sure it can be, especially if you’re sleeping in late every day. But I get up at seven. Is that self-indulgent?  I sleep an hour longer a day than a lot of people (eight hours). I guess that makes for four lost years of life if I live to eighty.

Maybe my body could adjust to less sleep.  I could get up at five, and do an hour’s writing and an hour’s prayer. I don’t like my chances though.

I’ll start with six or six-thirty. I know something needs to change. I’m determined to hold onto the insights I get from Foster’s book this time. I’m determined to let God change my life.

(And yes, I was about to write ‘I’m determined to change my life’, and if I was writing on my other blog, I probably would have. But this is a theological blog, and I feel a certain pressure to be theologically correct.)

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3 thoughts on “Getting up early to pray

  1. Although there are many questions present in your post for some consideration, I was curious about the bracketed paragraph.

    A certain pressure to be ‘correct’, is not any more theological than having a determination to change your life; is it?

    Interesting post though.

  2. Hi BD, thanks for stopping by. I think that paragraph may not be clear. I was reflecting on the fact that my instinct was to write ‘I’m determined to change my life’. But I realised that was the wrong attitude. (Surely we should be asking God to change us? And not ‘will worship’, as Foster puts it.) And I wondered if I only realised because I was aware that I was writing on a theological blog.

  3. Hi Nathan,
    Just stumbled on your post as I am writing a devotional on prayer. The title of the devo I am writing right now is “let God wake you up.” This has been a way for me to learn to rise earlier and avoid the “will worship” you mention. I focus on the part of my life I can control, my bed time. I try to be in bed at 10:30 or 11:00 at the latest unless it is a special occasion. Then I let God be in control of when I get up. Sometimes, I wake up at 4 am, other times 5 or 6. I trust God woke me up. I get up, spend a few moments in prayer, make some coffee, read some scriptures, pray some more and find my day centered. After stressful days I barely wake up by 7. That’s okay. God didn’t wake me up. As my grade school teacher once said to me when I fell asleep in class “you must have needed to sleep” with a loving smile on her face. I was 7. She was wise. God, way better than a grade school teacher, knows when we need to sleep. Then our prayer can simply be, “Thanks for the extra sleep, God. I think I needed that.” The discipline isn’t in setting an alarm…it’s in going to bed. The discipline isn’t in getting up when you are not ready. It’s in getting up when you wake. The sluggard turns like a door on its hinges, back and forth. The wise person wakes and rises. 🙂 Okay… thanks for the diversion and interesting post!

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