I’m wide, wide awake. I know I’m not going back to sleep any time soon, though I have to get up out at 4:45 a.m., a few short hours away. I roll over, hoping that I will return to deep slumber. In that act of spinning in my bed I catch sight of the clock: 2:00 a.m. This doesn’t help because now I know that my rise-and-shine time is fast approaching and thinking about it doesn’t make me sleepier. I’m more awake now than I was a minute ago.
It 2:00 a.m. the world feels like it’s about to end. What is about that time of the night that makes everything worse? Worries, problems, challenges all burst into my bedroom forcefully but silently. Leslie doesn’t stir thankfully but they find me.
Sometimes when I’m fully awake at 2:00 a.m.; I grab a book and make my way downstairs to our sofa. I read for a while. I’d rather turn my mind to the text of a good novel than to allow my worries, anxieties, and challenges to each have their turn in my head. If I’m lucky, I get sleepy and then I crawl back into bed for whatever sleep I can get. But sometimes reading doesn’t do it. Then I know: It’s time to pray.
A few years ago I learned two simple prayers that work wonderfully well at 2:00 a.m. One is the Breath Prayer and the other is the Jesus Prayer.
Robert D. Webber writes of the Breath Prayer and Jesus Prayer, “Our hearts beat, we breath in and out. Though we are usually unconscious of the rhythms of our bodies, they are with us until we die. No surprising then that ancient Christians . . . tuned their contemplative prayer to these physiological rhythms. We Christians might call this practice ‘Incarnational,’ that is, the Spirit of God in-forms and comes to dwell in our embodied spirits . . .[especially when I can’t fall back to sleep].”
“From the ancient church comes on particular prayer that lends itself perfectly to the breath’s rhythm, it’s called the Jesus Prayer. Inhale [and pray] ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God;’ exhale [and say] ‘Have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Repeat again and again, letting the words conform to one’s breathing.’
Here’s why I like combining the Breath Prayer and the Jesus Prayer at 2:00 a.m.: I’m doing something constructive. Rather than fret and worry and obsess, I’m praying. And praying is a way better use of my time than fretting, worrying and obsessing. Praying in rhythm of my breathing calms me and, like a sleeping pill, soon sends me off to dreamland.
Its 2:00 a.m. Do you know where your God is? Right with you! For the Lord never slumbers, never sleeps so that you can. Sweet dreams!