“Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is get a good night’s rest.” – heard at a pastors’ meeting this week
I don’t often think of sleep as a spiritual practice since it most often seems to play a supporting role to other things. So if I get a good night’s sleep, I can reflect on Scripture with a clearer mind. If I’m well rested, I’m more able to exercise patience and the other fruit of the Spirit. I have more energy for both contemplation and action. Getting enough rest prepares me for these other things, and I tend to think of it as background to the foreground of spiritual practice, as more physical than spiritual.
And yet spiritual practice is physical. A food fast not only paves the way for more prayer, but the physical act of self-denial is itself a spiritual practice that draws me to God. A prayer walk is not only about praying with my heart and mind along the way, but about the physical rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other as I walk with God. In my personal prayers, I often physically close my eyes and turn my palms upward to receive God’s blessing. Even reading Scripture is a physical act, as I hold my Bible in my hands and as my eyes read the words on the page. In these and many other ways, what we do with our bodies can be deeply spiritual, so why not sleep as spiritual practice and spiritual discipline too?
After all, getting a good night’s sleep takes some discipline–setting aside the endless round of things to do, turning off the tv or computer screen, laying aside that good book, releasing our cares and finding rest in God. It’s an act of trust–a physical demonstration that not everything depends on me, but on God who “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121: 4). In that way, getting a good night’s sleep can be like a daily Sabbath–a time to cease from our daily labours and give thanks to God, a time to place our trust in God and rest.
Your turn: Does getting a good night’s sleep come easily to you, or is it difficult? What difference does it make to think of sleep as spiritual practice?