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.
Here are a couple of links you might like: