RESTING AND SLEEPING WITH GOD
Practices for resting and falling asleep with God
Thoughts on sleep:
It can be tempting to not get enough sleep in this chaotic, busy life. But when we do not get enough sleep, it can be difficult to allow God to work fully in us. We can end up limiting him with our crankiness, irritation, and lack of focus. To let Christ into us and out of us toward others, getting good sleep at night and even with naps when needed (if possible) is a great advantage. Adequate sleep can help us be more in tune with God and can open us up to be more transformed by him. Furthermore, the actual act of going to sleep can be a spiritual practice. There are ways to go to sleep that can bring us closer to Jesus. If we are sleepy while we are trying to spend time with God, our time may be better spent napping with him, rather than pushing ourselves when we are too tired.
Seven options for sleeping with God
(Giving you one for each night of the week!)
Option 1 - Praying for others
As you lie down to rest, let your mind wander freely as it normally does. Whatever thought comes to you, pray for the people involved in that thought. You may have a specific prayer for them, but you do not need to. God knows what they need. Ask him to help them and let him release his power in their life.
Option 2 - Daddy's arms
Stand with both arms raised straight up above your head, like a child asking for a parent to lift her up. Look up and ask God to lift you. You are longing for him to hold you because you need him, and you want him. Imagine that he picks you up. And now as you lay down to rest, God's got you. You are in his lap, lying on his chest; cuddled, cradled, loved, and held. (If you remember this after you have already laid down, you can skip to the part about God holding you in his lap.)
Option 3 - Lectio divina
Complete at least the first reading and step of lectio divina. Or recall your word or phrase from a time when you did lectio divina. As you lie down, savor this word or phrase and let a peace come over you that God has the power to enliven this word in your life. He has the power! Trust. Rest in that. Keep the phrase in your thoughts as you relax into rest. Start to imagine yourself living it out. Create a vision in your mind of the new, more Christ-like you.
Option 4 - Distractions
As each thought comes to your head, mentally step back from the thought and examine it. What does God want to show you in this thought? Why is this thought running through your mind? Is there something in it that you are worried about or that you are trying to control? Is there something in it that brings you a sense of false significance (significance that comes from something other than God's love)? Lay each thought before God. Open your heart and invite him to show you what he wants you to see. Release the burdens that you do not need to be carrying. Confess the thoughts that are separating you from God: fear, worry, grasping at control, image orientation, greed, clutching at security, etc. Receive God's forgiveness. Receive God's freedom from the burdens that have been weighing on you. Try using the simple phrase, “I trust you, Jesus.” Let the truth of this phrase go beyond words and sink down deeply into you. Continue this process with each thought that enters your mind. Replace each toxic thought and receive God's rest.
Option 5 - Gratitude
As each thought comes into your mind, even if it is a troublesome one, thank God for this situation in your life. You may not even know what there is to be thankful for but thank him; he knows. Often you will find that even in troubling and disruptive situations, there is much to be thankful for that we have not been noticing. This is not a superficial thanks or lip service, but a thankfulness which allows your heart to move to true gratitude. Really wallow in gratitude; relish it. If this is a challenge, ask God to help you. And don't give up; keep coming back to this practice in the future, asking him to help you - trusting that he will!
Option 6 – Receiving his love (also found at the close of fast writing practice)
Imagine God’s face looking right into your eyes, shining with love and saying, “I love you. I approve of you. I sing over you.” Imagine his face overflowing with joy as he looks at you. Breathe his kindness into yourself. Allow feelings of kindness to fill your lungs and then to move into your whole body. Visualize his kindness and shining joy spreading to every cell of your body. This is the unshakable foundation of your self worth. (Willard, Dallas. Life Without Lack. Thomas Nelson, 2018, pp. 151-152). Feel the love and joy like that of a baby and adoring mother as they look into each other’s eyes. Lift your face to him; soak in his love. Repeat these prayers for yourself: “May I be peaceful and contented. May I be loving as I am loved. May I forgive as I have been forgiven.” If other people come to mind (even and perhaps especially those with whom you feel stress), pray these prayers for them. “May they be peaceful and contented. May they be loving and loved. May they be forgiving and forgiven.” (Schubiner, Howard and Betzold, Michael. Unlearn Your Pain. Mind Body Publishing, 2019, p. 121.)
Option 7 - Words of a song or Bible verse
Bring to mind a worship song or a hymn that you know or a verse that you have thought about or memorized (Psalm 23 or the old hymn “Anywhere with Jesus” are great for this). Think through each thought in the verse or song. What does this mean in your life right now?