Posted on 18 Comments

Falling asleep during prayer

File:Sleeping boy (Nikifor Krylov).jpg
Sleeping Boy by Krylov (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).


If you are a parent trying to grow in holiness, you have no doubt fallen asleep in prayer. Among nursing babies, sick toddlers, wet beds, and waiting up for teenagers, parents spend years being sleep deprived. Then we go to pray and find ourselves nodding off, or even dreaming. How should we handle this?

Am I being lazy?

Before reading Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux, I would get mad at myself and feel like a failure when I fell asleep. Of course, if I were to tell the whole truth, I was often at fault. I used to pray mental prayer last thing before going to bed. Even though I’m a night person, this is not a good time to pray. My thoughts are already on sleep. My mind and body are tired, and it feels like I’m giving prayer the lowest priority on my daily agenda. Sometimes I prayed that late due to forgetfulness. (Whoops, I haven’t prayed yet–better do it now!) Other times I was putting it off. But at least I was making some effort.

I find morning is the ideal time to pray, even for a night owl like me. It’s harder to forget and makes prayer my top priority. My mind isn’t racing with the business of the day.  And if I’m too tired, I can adjust the time I go to bed at night until I get it just right.

That’s how I reasoned in my single days.

Or am I just living my vocation?

Today I can’t pray in the morning. I’ll never wake up before the kids on my own, and if I set an alarm, the whole household will get up with me.

My afternoons get shorter every school year, as my boys require deeper instruction.

So I am back to praying in the evenings. However, now I usually pray right after the kids go to bed, instead of waiting until my bed time. I am getting as much sleep as my life currently allows–but it’s short of the eight hours my body requires to function its best. So, I often fall asleep.

I don’t get angry at myself, because I know I am doing the best I can.

Here is what St. Therese wrote on the subject:

“I should be distressed that I drop off to sleep during my prayers and during my thanksgiving after Holy Communion. But I don’t feel at all distressed. I know that children are just as dear to their parents whether they are asleep or awake and I know that doctors put their patients to sleep before they operate. So I just think that God ‘knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.'”

I offer my prayer to God, sometimes with a mischievous smile. He’s almighty, so He can make something of it, whether it is full of yawns, distractions, or gibberish. One of the first lessons I learned as a Secular Carmelite was not to think I have to pray again if I do a poor job. The success or failure of my prayer is in God’s hands.

Thank God!


Connie Rossini

Here are a couple of links you might like:

7 ways to make time for prayer

Why should you pray?

18 thoughts on “Falling asleep during prayer

  1. St. Therese had such a beautiful attitude, and since she is a Doctor of the Church, we can feel confident in what she says.

    1. I know. If I had never read Therese, i would be a spiritual dunce. I sometimes forget how much of my spirituality is indebted to her.

  2. I can relate, Connie. When I start to doze off while praying, I offer my tiredness to God and then try to finish praying. Sometimes, my struggle and inability to finish my prayer IS my prayer. Good post. Thanks.

    1. I knew with your kids and busy life you would be able to relate to this one. Have a great weekend.

  3. Glad to see I am in good company, Connie 😉 I’ve always been of the mind that God must think it’s cute when we fall asleep during prayer – like a baby falling asleep in the arms of mom or dad. I also get the impression that God gets a lot of work accomplished in our souls (without interference from our conscious minds) while we are asleep. He’s not one to overlook the opportunity for uninterrupted work …lol. I guess what I’m saying is that He’s probably busiest while we are at rest. It wouldn’t surprise me if this were the case!

    1. Mary, that’s so true! if we start our pray really open to the Spirit, He will do what He wills no matter how our tired flesh might act.

  4. Love this. Aside from Rosary, what do you pray? I need prayer help. I have had a breakthrough finally in the Rosary..but want more focused prayer.

    1. Kelly, the Rosary is a form of vocal prayer–a prayer composed by others that is primarily meant to be said in common. Have you ever tried mental prayer? Here is a post I wrote about the differences between vocal and mental prayer, with a suggested format for mental prayer based on the teaching of St. Francis de Sales: If you have more questions after this, let me know. It’s one of my favorite topics, so I’m happy to help you more.

    1. I don’t get your comment Francis. Did you mean to write more, or were you trying to subscribe?

  5. Nice post !

  6. amen, I could not agree more. In fact God has a better chance of transforming and purifiying my heart when I am sleeping in His presence that when my mind is awake and in charge

    1. Mind boggling, but true.

      1. Lovely description, mind boggling indeed. Thank goodness it is wonderful to know that God is more powerful than me

  7. This is such a lovely, comforting post! Thank you Connie.

    1. You’re welcome, Lora. I’m sure you can relate.

  8. My husband and I pray before bedtime, but we keep it short. I don’t think God would be mad at you though, I think it makes Him happy that you are trying. I guess He knew that lives would be crazy in 2014 since he is all-knowing but He probably feels sorry for us that we live in a world with so many distractions.

    1. I agree about God’s attitude vs. mine. I do what I can now. In the past my habits may have looked similar, but came from laziness. Now they come from necessity.

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