Message from Fr. Chris

Sleeping in prayer,

When addressing the “issue” of sleeping in prayer, one of my formators in seminary would often make the joke that “holiness grows heaviest in the head, that’s why it tilts the most”. Sleeping in prayer is often a source of discouragement and might detract somebody from their firm resolution to pray more. However, the parable in the Gospel invites us to consider sleeping as a time when God is still active and bringing about a growth that only He can.

“Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how”. The man in this parable planted the seed and it grew by night while he was asleep; he has done what he could-plan the seed; and God has done what only He can do; grow the seed. He cooperated with God’s design for the seed, to be planted and grow, but the man was not the source of the growth. Likewise, in disposing ourselves to pray we have done everything that we can; and God will do what only He can do: bring growth.

St. Therese of Lisieux in chapter VIII of her autobiography (Story of a Soul) relates how for seven years of her cloistered life she would fall asleep in prayer; keep in mind that she was in the convent for nine years. Seven out of nine. While this could have been a great source of desolation, St. Therese still managed to find God’s love in her sleep. She affirmed “I should be desolate for having slept (for seven years) during my hours of prayer and my thanksgivings after Holy Communion; well, I am not desolate. I remember that little children are as pleasing to their parents when they are asleep as well as when they are wide awake; I remember, too, that when they perform operations, doctors put their patients to sleep. Finally, I remember that: “The Lord knows our weakness, that he is mindful that we are but dust and ashes.” (Ps. 102)

Oftentimes we can fall into the lie that just because we fall asleep in prayer, Jesus also falls asleep, if I am not working neither is He. We must remember that our Lord is God whether “awake or asleep”. When the apostles found themselves in the middle of the storm Jesus rebuked them saying “do you not yet have faith”. Jesus is Lord whether awake or asleep. He is equally active in our lives, day and night, awake or asleep. We might fall asleep meditating on the mysteries of the rosary, but our drooling is not a mystery to God. He knows our weaknesses; He is mindful of our frail bodies; He knows that you have been working all day; He does not find your sleeping offensive. Do not be discouraged. You have done everything that you can; now let God do what only He can do: bring growth.

By Fr. Rodrigo Mayorga