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Friday, August 19, 2011

Making the Most of Every Opportunity—When You Can’t Sleep

Perhaps its an age thing, but its not unusual for me to wake up after a couple hours of sleep and not be able to get back to sleep. Of course, I’ve tried all kinds of things including laying there for hours staring at the ceiling, trying to sleep in a recliner, trying to pray—with varying success, getting up and starting the day in the middle of the night, listening to music, listening to a book on my kindle, reading a book on my kindle, among other things. Incidentally, what I really don’t like doing is trying to watch TV in the middle of the night.

I’ve hit upon a combination of a couple of the things above that you may find useful. I have used a devotional system called The Daily Tryst for more than 20 years. I hope to write a series about that here in days to come. This Tryst document I use contains numerous prompts for prayer with supporting scriptures as well as personal and intercessory prayer lists. For many years, I worked from an actual notebook, but for the last several years I’ve used a Word document and my Logos Bible Software. This morning, when I couldn’t sleep, I was reminded of an article I recently read (and now can’t find) that listed about 50 different uses of Dropbox. I already had the program installed on my laptop, itouch and blackberry and realized that I had stored my Tryst document in a Dropbox folder. (This could also be done by using Google docs, but I don’t think that that is quite as effective.) This morning I used my itouch, (the blackberry would have also worked) to pull up my document and pray through it without having to get up. From my itouch I could also look up scripture from my Logos application for that device.

The low tech method still works, getting out of bed and getting on my knees in another room. Sometimes that happens as well. There are unique dangers in keeping a smart phone close to your bed. Reading email in the middle of the night seems to be a guaranteed way to help you not be able to get back to sleep, for instance. However, I have mostly broken myself of that habit.

The biggest difficulty with going back to sleep is that I can’t seem to stop my mind from beginning to work on what is most pressing, or on the 1st 100 things most pressing. This is why I often find it difficult to pray and stay focused. However, with my Tryst materials in my hand, I can move through my prayer disciplines. This enables me to focus, which seems to enable me to pray more effectively. This is a practical way of accepting Jesus invitation in Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” It is a practical way of doing what Philippians 4:6 instructs, resulting in what verse 7 says will happen. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In some cases, this results in falling back asleep, but I don’t really see that as the goal. Genuinely encountering God is the goal. In times past, when I have managed to really pray in the middle of the night, sometimes the opposite takes place, because real prayer often results in getting more stirred up, rather than less. Regardless, I’m comforted in the night to be reminded of

Psalm 121:1–4 (ESV)
  1    I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
  2    My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
  3    He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
  4    Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

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